Publications by authors named "Holger Hengel"

35 Publications

Polyglutamine-Expanded Ataxin-3: A Target Engagement Marker for Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 3 in Peripheral Blood.

Mov Disord 2021 Aug 16. Epub 2021 Aug 16.

Institute of Medical Genetics and Applied Genomics, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.

Background: Spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 is a rare neurodegenerative disease caused by a CAG repeat expansion in the ataxin-3 gene. Although no curative therapy is yet available, preclinical gene-silencing approaches to reduce polyglutamine (polyQ) toxicity demonstrate promising results. In view of upcoming clinical trials, quantitative and easily accessible molecular markers are of critical importance as pharmacodynamic and particularly as target engagement markers.

Objective: We aimed at developing an ultrasensitive immunoassay to measure specifically polyQ-expanded ataxin-3 in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Methods: Using the novel single molecule counting ataxin-3 immunoassay, we analyzed cross-sectional and longitudinal patient biomaterials.

Results: Statistical analyses revealed a correlation with clinical parameters and a stability of polyQ-expanded ataxin-3 during conversion from the pre-ataxic to the ataxic phases.

Conclusions: The novel immunoassay is able to quantify polyQ-expanded ataxin-3 in plasma and CSF, whereas ataxin-3 levels in plasma correlate with disease severity. Longitudinal analyses demonstrated a high stability of polyQ-expanded ataxin-3 over a short period. © 2021 The Authors. Movement Disorders published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mds.28749DOI Listing
August 2021

Bi-allelic loss-of-function variants in BCAS3 cause a syndromic neurodevelopmental disorder.

Am J Hum Genet 2021 06 21;108(6):1069-1082. Epub 2021 May 21.

Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine, St Mary's Hospital, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, Health Innovation Manchester, Manchester M13 9WL, UK.

BCAS3 microtubule-associated cell migration factor (BCAS3) is a large, highly conserved cytoskeletal protein previously proposed to be critical in angiogenesis and implicated in human embryogenesis and tumorigenesis. Here, we established BCAS3 loss-of-function variants as causative for a neurodevelopmental disorder. We report 15 individuals from eight unrelated families with germline bi-allelic loss-of-function variants in BCAS3. All probands share a global developmental delay accompanied by pyramidal tract involvement, microcephaly, short stature, strabismus, dysmorphic facial features, and seizures. The human phenotype is less severe compared with the Bcas3 knockout mouse model and cannot be explained by angiogenic defects alone. Consistent with being loss-of-function alleles, we observed absence of BCAS3 in probands' primary fibroblasts. By comparing the transcriptomic and proteomic data based on probands' fibroblasts with those of the knockout mouse model, we identified similar dysregulated pathways resulting from over-representation analysis, while the dysregulation of some proposed key interactors could not be confirmed. Together with the results from a tissue-specific Drosophila loss-of-function model, we demonstrate a vital role for BCAS3 in neural tissue development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajhg.2021.04.024DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8206390PMC
June 2021

Regional Brain and Spinal Cord Volume Loss in Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 3.

Mov Disord 2021 10 5;36(10):2273-2281. Epub 2021 May 5.

IXICO Plc, London, United Kingdom.

Background: Given that new therapeutic options for spinocerebellar ataxias are on the horizon, there is a need for markers that reflect disease-related alterations, in particular, in the preataxic stage, in which clinical scales are lacking sensitivity.

Objective: The objective of this study was to quantify regional brain volumes and upper cervical spinal cord areas in spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 in vivo across the entire time course of the disease.

Methods: We applied a brain segmentation approach that included a lobular subsegmentation of the cerebellum to magnetic resonance images of 210 ataxic and 48 preataxic spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 mutation carriers and 63 healthy controls. In addition, cervical cord cross-sectional areas were determined at 2 levels.

Results: The metrics of cervical spinal cord segments C3 and C2, medulla oblongata, pons, and pallidum, and the cerebellar anterior lobe were reduced in preataxic mutation carriers compared with controls. Those of cervical spinal cord segments C2 and C3, medulla oblongata, pons, midbrain, cerebellar lobules crus II and X, cerebellar white matter, and pallidum were reduced in ataxic compared with nonataxic carriers. Of all metrics studied, pontine volume showed the steepest decline across the disease course. It covaried with ataxia severity, CAG repeat length, and age. The multivariate model derived from this analysis explained 46.33% of the variance of pontine volume.

Conclusion: Regional brain and spinal cord tissue loss in spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 starts before ataxia onset. Pontine volume appears to be the most promising imaging biomarker candidate for interventional trials that aim at slowing the progression of spinocerebellar ataxia type 3. © 2021 The Authors. Movement Disorders published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mds.28610DOI Listing
October 2021

Metabolic profiling in serum, cerebrospinal fluid, and brain of patients with cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis.

J Lipid Res 2021 Apr 20;62:100078. Epub 2021 Apr 20.

German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), Tübingen, Germany; Department of Neurology and Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany. Electronic address:

Cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis (CTX) is caused by autosomal recessive loss-of-function mutations in CYP27A1, a gene encoding cytochrome p450 oxidase essential for bile acid synthesis, resulting in altered bile acid and lipid metabolism. Here, we aimed to identify metabolic aberrations that drive ongoing neurodegeneration in some patients with CTX despite chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) supplementation, the standard treatment in CTX. Using chromatographic separation techniques coupled to mass spectrometry, we analyzed 26 sterol metabolites in serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of patients with CTX and in one CTX brain. Comparing samples of drug naive patients to patients treated with CDCA and healthy controls, we identified 7α,12α-dihydroxycholest-4-en-3-one as the most prominently elevated metabolite in serum and CSF of drug naive patients. CDCA treatment substantially reduced or even normalized levels of all metabolites increased in untreated patients with CTX. Independent of CDCA treatment, metabolites of the 27-hydroxylation pathway were nearly absent in all patients with CTX. 27-hydroxylated metabolites accounted for ∼45% of total free sterol content in CSF of healthy controls but <2% in patients with CTX. Metabolic changes in brain tissue corresponded well with findings in CSF. Interestingly, 7α,12α-dihydroxycholest-4-en-3-one and 5α-cholestanol did not exert toxicity in neuronal cell culture. In conclusion, we propose that increased 7α,12α-dihydroxycholest-4-en-3-one and lack of 27-hydroxycholesterol may be highly sensitive metabolic biomarkers of CTX. As CDCA cannot reliably prevent disease progression despite reduction of most accumulated metabolites, supplementation of 27-hydroxylated bile acid intermediates or replacement of CYP27A1 might be required to counter neurodegeneration in patients with progressive disease despite CDCA treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jlr.2021.100078DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8135047PMC
April 2021

Neurofilament light chain is a cerebrospinal fluid biomarker in hereditary spastic paraplegia.

Ann Clin Transl Neurol 2021 05 5;8(5):1122-1131. Epub 2021 Apr 5.

Department of Neurodegenerative Diseases, Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research, Tübingen, Germany.

Objective: Despite the need for diagnostics and research, data on fluid biomarkers in hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) are scarce. We, therefore, explore Neurofilament light chain (NfL) levels in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of patients with hereditary spastic paraplegia and provide information on the influence of demographic factors.

Methods: The study recruited 59 HSP cases (33 genetically confirmed) and 59 controls matched in age and sex. Neurofilament light chain levels were assessed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The statistical analysis included the effects of age, sex, and genetic status (confirmed vs. not confirmed).

Results: Levels of CSF NfL were significantly increased in patients with hereditary spastic paraplegia compared to controls (median 741 pg/mL vs. 387 pg/mL, p < 0.001). Age (1.4% annual increase) and male sex (81% increase) impacted CSF NfL levels in patients. The age-dependent increase of CSF NfL levels was steeper in controls (2.6% annual increase). Thus, the CSF NfL ratio of patients and matched controls-expressing patients' fold increases in CSF NfL-declined considerably with age.

Interpretation: CSF NfL is a reliable cross-sectional biomarker in hereditary spastic paraplegia. Sex is a relevant factor to consider, as male patients have remarkably higher CSF NfL levels. While levels also increase with age, the gap between patients and controls is narrowing in older subjects. This indicates distinct temporal dynamics of CSF NfL in patients with hereditary spastic paraplegia, with a rise around phenotypic conversion and comparatively static levels afterward.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/acn3.51358DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8108414PMC
May 2021

Cerebrospinal fluid findings in patients with psychotic symptoms-a retrospective analysis.

Sci Rep 2021 03 30;11(1):7169. Epub 2021 Mar 30.

Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.

In current international classification systems (ICD-10, DSM5), the diagnostic criteria for psychotic disorders (e.g. schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder) are based on symptomatic descriptions since no unambiguous biomarkers are known to date. However, when underlying causes of psychotic symptoms, like inflammation, ischemia, or tumor affecting the neural tissue can be identified, a different classification is used ("psychotic disorder with delusions due to known physiological condition" (ICD-10: F06.2) or psychosis caused by medical factors (DSM5)). While CSF analysis still is considered optional in current diagnostic guidelines for psychotic disorders, CSF biomarkers could help to identify known physiological conditions. In this retrospective, partly descriptive analysis of 144 patients with psychotic symptoms and available CSF data, we analyzed CSF examinations' significance to differentiate patients with specific etiological factors (F06.2) from patients with schizophrenia, schizotypal, delusional, and other non-mood psychotic disorders (F2). In 40.3% of all patients, at least one CSF parameter was out of the reference range. Abnormal CSF-findings were found significantly more often in patients diagnosed with F06.2 (88.2%) as compared to patients diagnosed with F2 (23.8%, p < 0.00001). A total of 17 cases were identified as probably caused by specific etiological factors (F06.2), of which ten cases fulfilled the criteria for a probable autoimmune psychosis linked to the following autoantibodies: amphiphysin, CASPR2, CV2, LGl1, NMDA, zic4, and titin. Two cases presented with anti-thyroid tissue autoantibodies. In four cases, further probable causal factors were identified: COVID-19, a frontal intracranial tumor, multiple sclerosis (n = 2), and neurosyphilis. Twenty-one cases remained with "no reliable diagnostic classification". Age at onset of psychotic symptoms differed between patients diagnosed with F2 and F06.2 (p = 0.014), with the latter group being older (median: 44 vs. 28 years). Various CSF parameters were analyzed in an exploratory analysis, identifying pleocytosis and oligoclonal bands (OCBs) as discriminators (F06.2 vs. F2) with a high specificity of > 96% each. No group differences were found for gender, characteristics of psychotic symptoms, substance dependency, or family history. This study emphasizes the great importance of a detailed diagnostic workup in diagnosing psychotic disorders, including CSF analysis, to detect possible underlying pathologies and improve treatment decisions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-86170-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8010098PMC
March 2021

Bi-allelic truncating mutations in VWA1 cause neuromyopathy.

Brain 2021 03;144(2):574-583

Institute of Medical Genetics and Applied Genomics, University of Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.

The von Willebrand Factor A domain containing 1 protein, encoded by VWA1, is an extracellular matrix protein expressed in muscle and peripheral nerve. It interacts with collagen VI and perlecan, two proteins that are affected in hereditary neuromuscular disorders. Lack of VWA1 is known to compromise peripheral nerves in a Vwa1 knock-out mouse model. Exome sequencing led us to identify bi-allelic loss of function variants in VWA1 as the molecular cause underlying a so far genetically undefined neuromuscular disorder. We detected six different truncating variants in 15 affected individuals from six families of German, Arabic, and Roma descent. Disease manifested in childhood or adulthood with proximal and distal muscle weakness predominantly of the lower limbs. Myopathological and neurophysiological findings were indicative of combined neurogenic and myopathic pathology. Early childhood foot deformity was frequent, but no sensory signs were observed. Our findings establish VWA1 as a new disease gene confidently implicated in this autosomal recessive neuromyopathic condition presenting with child-/adult-onset muscle weakness as a key clinical feature.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awaa418DOI Listing
March 2021

PolyQ-expanded ataxin-3 protein levels in peripheral blood mononuclear cells correlate with clinical parameters in SCA3: a pilot study.

J Neurol 2021 Apr 26;268(4):1304-1315. Epub 2020 Oct 26.

Institute of Medical Genetics and Applied Genomics, University of Tübingen, Calwerstraße 7, 72076, Tübingen, Germany.

In view of upcoming clinical trials, quantitative molecular markers accessible in peripheral blood are of critical importance as prognostic or pharmacodynamic markers in genetic neurodegenerative diseases such as Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 3 (SCA3), in particular for signaling target engagement. In this pilot study, we focused on the quantification of ataxin-3, the protein altered in SCA3, in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) acquired from preataxic and ataxic SCA3 mutation carriers as well as healthy controls, as a molecular marker directly related to SCA3 pathophysiology. We established two different highly sensitive TR-FRET-based immunoassays to measure the protein levels of either total full-length, non-expanded and expanded, ataxin-3 or specifically polyQ-expanded ataxin-3. In PBMCs, a clear discrimination between SCA3 mutation carrier and controls were seen measuring polyQ-expanded ataxin-3 protein level. Additionally, polyQ-expanded ataxin-3 protein levels correlated with disease progression and clinical severity as assessed by the Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia. Total full-length ataxin-3 protein levels were directly influenced by the expression levels of the polyQ-expanded ataxin-3 protein, but were not correlated with clinical parameters. Assessment of ataxin-3 levels in fibroblasts or induced pluripotent stem cells allowed to distinguish mutation carriers from controls, thus providing proof-of-principle validation of our PBMC findings across cell lines. Total full-length or polyQ-expanded ataxin-3 protein was not detectable by TR-FRET assays in other biofluids like plasma or cerebrospinal fluid, indicating the need for ultra-sensitive assays for these biofluids. Standardization studies revealed that tube systems, blood sampling, and PBMC preparation may influence ataxin-3 protein levels indicating a high demand for standardized protocols in biomarker studies. In conclusion, the polyQ-expanded ataxin-3 protein is a promising candidate as a molecular target engagement marker in SCA3 in future clinical trials, determinable even in-easily accessible-peripheral blood biomaterials. These results, however, require validation in a larger cohort and further standardization of modifying conditions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00415-020-10274-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7990753PMC
April 2021

Defining diagnostic cutoffs in neurological patients for serum very long chain fatty acids (VLCFA) in genetically confirmed X-Adrenoleukodystrophy.

Sci Rep 2020 09 15;10(1):15093. Epub 2020 Sep 15.

Institute for Clinical Chemistry and Pathobiochemistry/Central Laboratory, University of Tübingen, Hoppe-Seyler-Str. 3, 72076, Tübingen, Germany.

X-linked Adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD) is caused by mutations in the ABCD1 gene resulting in the accumulation of very long chain fatty acids (VLCFA). X-ALD is the most common peroxisomal disorder with adult patients (male and female) presenting with progressive spastic paraparesis with bladder disturbance, sensory ataxia with impaired vibration sense, and leg pain. 80% of male X-ALD patients have an adrenal failure, while adrenal dysfunction is rare in women with X-ALD. The objective of this study was to define optimal serum VLCFA cutoff values in patients with X-ALD-like phenotypes for the differentiation of genetically confirmed X-ALD and Non-X-ALD individuals. Three groups were included into this study: a) X-ALD cases with confirmed ABCD1 mutations (n = 34) and two Non-X-ALD cohorts: b) Patients with abnormal serum VCLFA levels despite negative testing for ABCD1 mutations (n = 15) resulting from a total of 1,953 VLCFA tests c) Phenotypically matching patients as Non-X-ALD controls (n = 104). Receiver operating curve analysis was used to optimize VLCFA cutoff values, which differentiate patients with genetically confirmed X-ALD and Non-X-ALD individuals. The serum concentration of C26:0 was superior to C24:0 for the detection of X-ALD. The best differentiation of Non-X-ALD and X-ALD individuals was obtained with a cutoff value of < 1.0 for the C24:0/C22:0 ratio resulting in a sensitivity of 97%, a specificity of 94.1% and a positive predictive value (PPV) of 83.8% for true X-ALD. Our findings further suggested a cutoff of < 0.02 for the ratio C26:0/C22:0 leading to a sensitivity of 90.9%, a specificity of 95.0%, and a PPV of 80.6%. Pearson correlation indicated a significant positive association between total blood cholesterol and VLCFA values. Usage of serum VLCFA are economical and established biomarkers suitable for the guidance of genetic testing matching the X-ALD phenotype. We suggest using our new optimized cutoff values, especially the two ratios (C24:0/C22:0 and C26:0/C22:0), in combination with standard lipid profiles.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-71248-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7494896PMC
September 2020

Conversion of individuals at risk for spinocerebellar ataxia types 1, 2, 3, and 6 to manifest ataxia (RISCA): a longitudinal cohort study.

Lancet Neurol 2020 09;19(9):738-747

German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), Bonn, Germany; Department of Neurology, University Hospital of Bonn, Bonn, Germany.

Background: Spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) are autosomal dominant neurodegenerative diseases. Our aim was to study the conversion to manifest ataxia among apparently healthy carriers of mutations associated with the most common SCAs (SCA1, SCA2, SCA3, and SCA6), and the sensitivity of clinical and functional measures to detect change in these individuals.

Methods: In this prospective, longitudinal, observational cohort study, based at 14 referral centres in seven European countries, we enrolled children or siblings of patients with SCA1, SCA2, SCA3, or SCA6. Eligible individuals were those without ataxia, defined by a score on the Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia (SARA) of less than 3; participants had to be aged 18-50 years for children or siblings of patients with SCA1, SCA2, or SCA3, and 35-70 years for children or siblings of patients with SCA6. Study visits took place at recruitment and after 2, 4, and 6 years (plus or minus 3 months). We did genetic testing to identify mutation carriers, with results concealed to the participant and clinical investigator. We assessed patients with clinical scales, questionnaires of patient-reported outcome measures, a rating of the examiner's confidence of presence of ataxia, and performance-based coordination tests. Conversion to ataxia was defined by an SARA score of 3 or higher. We analysed the association of factors at baseline with conversion to ataxia and the evolution of outcome parameters on temporal scales (time from inclusion and time to predicted age at ataxia onset) in the context of mutation status and conversion status. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01037777.

Findings: Between Sept 13, 2008, and Oct 28, 2015, 302 participants were enrolled. We analysed data for 252 participants with at least one follow-up visit. 83 (33%) participants were from families affected by SCA1, 99 (39%) by SCA2, 46 (18%) by SCA3, and 24 (10%) by SCA6. In participants who carried SCA mutations, 26 (52%) of 50 SCA1 carriers, 22 (59%) of 37 SCA2 carriers, 11 (42%) of 26 SCA3 carriers, and two (13%) of 15 SCA6 carriers converted to ataxia. One (3%) of 33 SCA1 non-carriers and one (2%) of 62 SCA2 non-carriers converted to ataxia. Owing to the small number of people who met our criteria for ataxia, subsequent analyses could not be done in carriers of the SCA6 mutation. Baseline factors associated with conversion were age (hazard ratio 1·13 [95% CI 1·03-1·24]; p=0·011), CAG repeat length (1·25 [1·11-1·41]; p=0·0002), and ataxia confidence rating (1·72 [1·23-2·41]; p=0·0015) for SCA1; age (1·08 [1·02-1·14]; p=0·0077) and CAG repeat length (1·65 [1·27-2·13]; p=0·0001) for SCA2; and age (1·27 [1·09-1·50]; p=0·0031), confidence rating (2·60 [1·23-5·47]; p=0·012), and double vision (14·83 [2·15-102·44]; p=0·0063) for SCA3. From the time of inclusion, the SARA scores of SCA1, SCA2, and SCA3 mutation carriers increased, whereas they remained stable in non-carriers. On a timescale defined by the predicted time of ataxia onset, SARA progression in SCA1, SCA2, and SCA3 mutation carriers was non-linear, with marginal progression before ataxia and increasing progression after ataxia onset.

Interpretation: Our study provides quantitative data on the conversion of non-ataxic SCA1, SCA2, and SCA3 mutation carriers to manifest ataxia. Our data could prove useful for the design of preventive trials aimed at delaying the onset of ataxia by aiding sample size calculations and stratification of study participants.

Funding: European Research Area Network for Research Programmes on Rare Diseases, Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, Italian Ministry of Health, European Community's Seventh Framework Programme.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(20)30235-0DOI Listing
September 2020

Multifocal, hypoechogenic nerve thickening in Cerebrotendinous Xanthomatosis.

Clin Neurophysiol 2020 08 21;131(8):1798-1803. Epub 2020 May 21.

Center of Neurology and Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research (HIH), University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.

Objective: To characterize peripheral nerve morphology in cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis (CTX) patients using high-resolution ultrasound (HRUS) in vivo. We hypothesized that nerve enlargements might be present in CTX as a result of accumulation of abnormal lipids with deposition also in peripheral nerves.

Methods: Four CTX patients were examined using HRUS to assess morphological abnormalities of peripheral nerves as well as cervical nerve roots 5 and 6.

Results: HRUS revealed mild to moderate, hypoechogenic thickening of sensorimotor nerves (ulnar nerve in 1/4, tibial nerve in 3/4, median nerve 4/4 patients) as well as mild enlargement of pure sensory nerves (sural nerve in 2/3, superficial FN in 2/4 patients). The vagal nerve was moderately enlarged in one patient, cervical roots showed moderate enlargements of C5 in two patients, one of which also showing thickening of C6 as well as in another patient. UPSS score was slightly to moderately abnormal in all patients. The Homogeneity score was not increased suggesting regional to inhomogeneous nerve enlargement.

Conclusions: HRUS shows multifocal, hypoechogenic nerve thickening of peripheral nerves and nerve roots in CTX.

Significance: HRUS might serve as a valuable, additive and non-invasive bedside tool to assess peripheral nerve morphology in future clinical studies on CTX patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clinph.2020.04.162DOI Listing
August 2020

Neurofilaments in spinocerebellar ataxia type 3: blood biomarkers at the preataxic and ataxic stage in humans and mice.

EMBO Mol Med 2020 07 8;12(7):e11803. Epub 2020 Jun 8.

Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research (HIH), Center of Neurology, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.

With molecular treatments coming into reach for spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3), easily accessible, cross-species validated biomarkers for human and preclinical trials are warranted, particularly for the preataxic disease stage. We assessed serum levels of neurofilament light (NfL) and phosphorylated neurofilament heavy (pNfH) in ataxic and preataxic subjects of two independent multicentric SCA3 cohorts and in a SCA3 knock-in mouse model. Ataxic SCA3 subjects showed increased levels of both NfL and pNfH. In preataxic subjects, NfL levels increased with proximity to the individual expected onset of ataxia, with significant NfL elevations already 7.5 years before onset. Cross-sectional NfL levels correlated with both disease severity and longitudinal disease progression. Blood NfL and pNfH increases in human SCA3 were each paralleled by similar changes in SCA3 knock-in mice, here also starting already at the presymptomatic stage, closely following ataxin-3 aggregation and preceding Purkinje cell loss in the brain. Blood neurofilaments, particularly NfL, might thus provide easily accessible, cross-species validated biomarkers in both ataxic and preataxic SCA3, associated with earliest neuropathological changes, and serve as progression, proximity-to-onset and, potentially, treatment-response markers in both human and preclinical SCA3 trials.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.15252/emmm.201911803DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7338806PMC
July 2020

First-line exome sequencing in Palestinian and Israeli Arabs with neurological disorders is efficient and facilitates disease gene discovery.

Eur J Hum Genet 2020 08 25;28(8):1034-1043. Epub 2020 Mar 25.

Department of Neurology and Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain Research, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.

A high rate of consanguinity leads to a high prevalence of autosomal recessive disorders in inbred populations. One example of inbred populations is the Arab communities in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In the Palestinian Authority in particular, due to limited access to specialized medical care, most patients do not receive a genetic diagnosis and can therefore neither receive genetic counseling nor possibly specific treatment. We used whole-exome sequencing as a first-line diagnostic tool in 83 Palestinian and Israeli Arab families with suspected neurogenetic disorders and were able to establish a probable genetic diagnosis in 51% of the families (42 families). Pathogenic, likely pathogenic or highly suggestive candidate variants were found in the following genes extending and refining the mutational and phenotypic spectrum of these rare disorders: ACO2, ADAT3, ALS2, AMPD2, APTX, B4GALNT1, CAPN1, CLCN1, CNTNAP1, DNAJC6, GAMT, GPT2, KCNQ2, KIF11, LCA5, MCOLN1, MECP2, MFN2, MTMR2, NT5C2, NTRK1, PEX1, POLR3A, PRICKLE1, PRKN, PRX, SCAPER, SEPSECS, SGCG, SLC25A15, SPG11, SYNJ1, TMCO1, and TSEN54. Further, this cohort has proven to be ideal for prioritization of new disease genes. Two separately published candidate genes (WWOX and PAX7) were identified in this study. Analyzing the runs of homozygosity (ROHs) derived from the Exome sequencing data as a marker for the rate of inbreeding, revealed significantly longer ROHs in the included families compared with a German control cohort. The total length of ROHs correlated with the detection rate of recessive disease-causing variants. Identification of the disease-causing gene led to new therapeutic options in four families.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41431-020-0609-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7382450PMC
August 2020

Loss-of-function mutations in UDP-Glucose 6-Dehydrogenase cause recessive developmental epileptic encephalopathy.

Nat Commun 2020 01 30;11(1):595. Epub 2020 Jan 30.

Department of Pediatrics, Department of Neurology, & the Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Developmental epileptic encephalopathies are devastating disorders characterized by intractable epileptic seizures and developmental delay. Here, we report an allelic series of germline recessive mutations in UGDH in 36 cases from 25 families presenting with epileptic encephalopathy with developmental delay and hypotonia. UGDH encodes an oxidoreductase that converts UDP-glucose to UDP-glucuronic acid, a key component of specific proteoglycans and glycolipids. Consistent with being loss-of-function alleles, we show using patients' primary fibroblasts and biochemical assays, that these mutations either impair UGDH stability, oligomerization, or enzymatic activity. In vitro, patient-derived cerebral organoids are smaller with a reduced number of proliferating neuronal progenitors while mutant ugdh zebrafish do not phenocopy the human disease. Our study defines UGDH as a key player for the production of extracellular matrix components that are essential for human brain development. Based on the incidence of variants observed, UGDH mutations are likely to be a frequent cause of recessive epileptic encephalopathy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-14360-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6992768PMC
January 2020

Non-motor symptoms are relevant and possibly treatable in hereditary spastic paraplegia type 4 (SPG4).

J Neurol 2020 Feb 23;267(2):369-379. Epub 2019 Oct 23.

Department of Neurodegenerative Disease, Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain Research, and Center for Neurology, University of Tübingen, Hoppe-Seyler-Straße 3, 72076, Tübingen, Germany.

Hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSP) share as cardinal feature progressive spastic gait disorder. SPG4 accounts for about 25% of cases and is caused by mutations in the SPAST gene. Although HSP is an upper motor neuron disease, the relevance of non-motor symptoms is increasingly recognized because of the potential response to treatment. Our study sets out to evaluate non-motor symptoms and their relevance with regard to health-related quality of life. In 118 genetically confirmed SPG4 cases and age- and gender-matched controls, validated questionnaires were used to evaluate fatigue, depression, pain, and restless legs syndrome. In addition, self-reported medical information was collected concerning comorbidities and bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunction. In a sub-study, cognition was evaluated using the CANTAB test-battery and the Montreal Cognitive Assessment in 26 SPG4 patients. We found depression and pain to be significantly increased. The frequency of restless legs syndrome varied largely depending on defining criteria. There were no significant deficits in cognition as examined by CANTAB despite a significant increase in self-reported memory impairment in SPG4 patients. Bladder, sexual, and defecation problems were frequent and seemed to be underrecognized in current treatment strategies. All identified non-motor symptoms correlated with health-related quality of life, which was reduced in SPG4 compared to controls. We recommend that clinicians regularly screen for depression, pain, and fatigue and ask for bladder, sexual, and defecation problems to recognize and treat non-motor symptoms accordingly to improve quality of life in patients with SPG4.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00415-019-09573-wDOI Listing
February 2020

Prediction of Survival With Long-Term Disease Progression in Most Common Spinocerebellar Ataxia.

Mov Disord 2019 08 18;34(8):1220-1227. Epub 2019 Jun 18.

Department of Neurology, Medical University, Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.

Background: Spinocerebellar ataxias are rare dominantly inherited neurodegenerative diseases that lead to severe disability and premature death.

Objective: To quantify the impact of disease progression measured by the Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia on survival, and to identify different profiles of disease progression and survival.

Methods: Four hundred sixty-two spinocerebellar ataxia patients from the EUROSCA prospective cohort study, suffering from spinocerebellar ataxia type 1, spinocerebellar ataxia type 2, spinocerebellar ataxia type 3, and spinocerebellar ataxia type 6, and who had at least two measurements of Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia score, were analyzed. Outcomes were change over time in Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia score and time to death. Joint model was used to analyze disease progression and survival.

Results: Disease progression was the strongest predictor for death in all genotypes: An increase of 1 standard deviation in total Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia score increased the risk of death by 1.28 times (95% confidence interval: 1.18-1.38) for patients with spinocerebellar ataxia type 1; 1.19 times (1.12-1.26) for spinocerebellar ataxia type 2; 1.30 times (1.19-1.42) for spinocerebellar ataxia type 3; and 1.26 times (1.11-1.43) for spinocerebellar ataxia type 6. Three subgroups of disease progression and survival were identified for patients with spinocerebellar ataxia type 1: "severe" (n = 13; 12%), "intermediate" (n = 31; 29%), and "moderate" (n = 62; 58%). Patients in the severe group were more severely affected at baseline with higher Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia scores and frequency of nonataxia signs compared to those in the other groups.

Conclusion: Rapid ataxia progression is associated with poor survival of the most common spinocerebellar ataxia. Theses current results have implications for the design of future interventional studies of spinocerebellar ataxia. © 2019 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mds.27739DOI Listing
August 2019

A novel biallelic loss-of-function mutation in TMCO1 gene confirming and expanding the phenotype spectrum of cerebro-facio-thoracic dysplasia.

Am J Med Genet A 2019 07 18;179(7):1338-1345. Epub 2019 May 18.

Child Neurology and Development Center, Hillel-Yaffe Medical Center, Hadera, Israel.

The main clinical features of cerebro-facio-thoracic dysplasia (CFTD) syndrome, which were described over four decades ago, include facial dysmorphism, multiple malformations of the vertebrae and ribs, and intellectual disability. Recently, a TMCO1 gene mutation was shown to be responsible for an autosomal recessive CFTD syndrome characterized by craniofacial dysmorphism, skeletal anomalies, and intellectual disability. In the current report, we describe two members of a consanguineous family from an Arab community in Israel who were clinically diagnosed as suffering from craniofacial dysmorphism, skeletal anomalies, intellectual disability, and epilepsy. Both affected siblings had behavioral difficulties such as anxiety and emotional instability with impulsive behaviors. Whole-exome sequencing revealed a homozygous stop-gain mutation NM_019026.4: c.616C > T; p.(Arg206*) in exon 6 of the TMCO1 gene. Bioinformatics analysis suggested a structural model for the TMCO1 protein and its homologues. The clinical features of our patients were compared with those of the only other five studies available in the literature. We conclude that this mutation in the TMCO1 gene is responsible for the various clinical manifestations of CFTD syndrome exhibited by the patients studied that expand the phenotypic spectrum of the disease to include epilepsy as a characteristic feature of this syndrome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajmg.a.61168DOI Listing
July 2019

Biallelic variants in the transcription factor PAX7 are a new genetic cause of myopathy.

Genet Med 2019 11 16;21(11):2521-2531. Epub 2019 May 16.

Department of Pathology, CHU Sainte-Justine, Université de Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada.

Purpose: Skeletal muscle growth and regeneration rely on muscle stem cells, called satellite cells. Specific transcription factors, particularly PAX7, are key regulators of the function of these cells. Knockout of this factor in mice leads to poor postnatal survival; however, the consequences of a lack of PAX7 in humans have not been established.

Methods: Here, we study five individuals with myopathy of variable severity from four unrelated consanguineous couples. Exome sequencing identified pathogenic variants in the PAX7 gene. Clinical examination, laboratory tests, and muscle biopsies were performed to characterize the disease.

Results: The disease was characterized by hypotonia, ptosis, muscular atrophy, scoliosis, and mildly dysmorphic facial features. The disease spectrum ranged from mild to severe and appears to be progressive. Muscle biopsies showed the presence of atrophic fibers and fibroadipose tissue replacement, with the absence of myofiber necrosis. A lack of PAX7 expression was associated with satellite cell pool exhaustion; however, the presence of residual myoblasts together with regenerating myofibers suggest that a population of PAX7-independent myogenic cells partially contributes to muscle regeneration.

Conclusion: These findings show that biallelic variants in the master transcription factor PAX7 cause a new type of myopathy that specifically affects satellite cell survival.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41436-019-0532-zDOI Listing
November 2019

Clinical, radiological, and genetic characteristics of 16 patients with ACO2 gene defects: Delineation of an emerging neurometabolic syndrome.

J Inherit Metab Dis 2019 03 28;42(2):264-275. Epub 2019 Jan 28.

Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion- Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel.

Mitochondrial aconitase is the second enzyme in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle catalyzing the interconversion of citrate into isocitrate and encoded by the nuclear gene ACO2. A homozygous pathogenic variant in the ACO2 gene was initially described in 2012 resulting in a novel disorder termed "infantile cerebellar retinal degeneration" (ICRD, OMIM#614559). Subsequently, additional studies reported patients with pathogenic ACO2 variants, further expanding the genetic and clinical spectrum of this disorder to include milder and later onset manifestations. Here, we report an international multicenter cohort of 16 patients (of whom 7 are newly diagnosed) with biallelic pathogenic variants in ACO2 gene. Most patients present in early infancy with severe truncal hypotonia, truncal ataxia, variable seizures, evolving microcephaly, and ophthalmological abnormalities of which the most dominant are esotropia and optic atrophy with later development of retinal dystrophy. Most patients remain nonambulatory and do no acquire any language, but a subgroup of patients share a more favorable course. Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is typically normal within the first months but global atrophy gradually develops affecting predominantly the cerebellum. Ten of our patients were homozygous to the previously reported c.336C>G founder mutation while the other six patients were all compound heterozygotes displaying 10 novel mutations of whom 2 were nonsense predicting a deleterious effect on enzyme function. Structural protein modeling predicted significant impairment in aconitase substrate binding in the additional missense mutations. This study provides the most extensive cohort of patients and further delineates the clinical, radiological, biochemical, and molecular features of ACO2 deficiency.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jimd.12022DOI Listing
March 2019

A previously identified missense mutation in STYXL1 is likely benign.

Eur J Med Genet 2019 Nov 22;62(11):103582. Epub 2018 Nov 22.

Department of Neurology and Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain Research, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany; German Center of Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), Tübingen, Germany. Electronic address:

Based on a homozygous missense variant p.Pro311Ala found in three siblings of a consanguineous family, mutations in the STYXL1 gene were suggested to cause moderate intellectual disability, epilepsy and complex behavioural abnormalities. We have detected this variant via whole exome sequencing in a homozygous state in two families. Segregation analyses in our families and thorough validation in international genetic databases provides evidence that this variant is most likely benign. This is important information for genetic counselling. The role of STYXL1 variants in human disease needs to be established.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejmg.2018.11.016DOI Listing
November 2019

Nerve ultrasound characterizes AMN polyneuropathy as inhomogeneous and focal hypertrophic.

Orphanet J Rare Dis 2018 11 3;13(1):194. Epub 2018 Nov 3.

Center for Neurology, and Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain Research, University of Tübingen, Hoppe-Seyler-Straße 3, 72076, Tübingen, Germany.

Objective: High-resolution nerve ultrasound (HRUS) is a painless tool to quickly evaluate peripheral nerve morphology in vivo. This study set out to characterize peripheral nerve involvement in X-linked adrenomyeloneuropathy (AMN) by HRUS.

Methods: Thirteen adults with genetically proven AMN were examined using the Ultrasound pattern sum score (UPSS) to evaluate morphological abnormalities of peripheral nerves, vagal nerves, as well as cervical nerve roots. Ultrasound results were correlated with clinical findings and nerve conduction studies.

Results: UPSS was increased in six out of 13 patients. Nerve enlargement was mostly inhomogeneous and regional. The median, ulnar, and vagal nerves presented with more prominent alterations than nerves of the lower limbs. The proximal-to-distal ratio was significantly enlarged for the median nerve. HRUS findings matched nerve conduction studies, but identified one patient with enlarged nerves and yet normal conduction velocities. Sonographic findings did not correlate with disease duration or disease severity as assessed by the spastic paraplegia rating scale.

Conclusion: HRUS reveals significant multifocal regional nerve swellings with reduced echo intensity as the morphological equivalent of electrophysiological peripheral nerve affection in AMN patients. Ultrasound and NCS characteristics in AMN seem to differ from other demyelinating neuropathies like CIDP or CMT1a.

Trial Registration: German clinical-trial-register (DRKS) ( DRKS-ID 00005253 ) Registered 15 October 2013.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13023-018-0939-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6215661PMC
November 2018

Serum neurofilament light chain is increased in hereditary spastic paraplegias.

Ann Clin Transl Neurol 2018 Jul 21;5(7):876-882. Epub 2018 May 21.

Department of Neurodegenerative Diseases Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain Research and Center of Neurology University of Tübingen Hoppe-Seyler-Str. 3 72076 Tübingen Germany.

Blood biomarkers are still largely missing in hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSPs). We here explored Neurofilament light chain (NfL) as a biomarker in HSP. Serum NfL was assessed in 96 HSP (63 genetically confirmed), 96 healthy control, and 33 ALS subjects by single molecule array (Simoa). Compared to controls, NfL was increased in HSP ( < 0.001), correlating with cross-sectional disease progression ( = 0.28). Levels were lower than in ALS ( < 0.001), allowing to differentiate HSP from ALS (AUC = 0.91). Serum NfL might serve as a biomarker in HSP indicating neuronal damage and, if confirmed longitudinally, disease progression. It might also support differentiating HSP from ALS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/acn3.583DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6043776PMC
July 2018

Long-term evolution of patient-reported outcome measures in spinocerebellar ataxias.

J Neurol 2018 Sep 29;265(9):2040-2051. Epub 2018 Jun 29.

Department of Neurology, Medical University, Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.

Introduction: To study the long-term evolution of patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) in the most common spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs), we analyzed 8 years follow-up data of the EUROSCA Natural History Study, a cohort study of 526 patients with SCA1, SCA2, SCA3 and SCA6.

Methods: To assess the functional capacity in daily living, we used the functional assessment (part IV) of the Unified Huntington's Disease Rating Scale (UHDRS-IV), for health-related quality of life the visual analogue scale of the EuroQol Five Dimensions Questionnaire (EQ-5D VAS), and for depressive symptoms the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). Severity of ataxia was assessed using the Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia (SARA) and neurological symptoms other than ataxia with the Inventory of Non-Ataxia Signs (INAS).

Results: UHDRS-IV [SCA1: - 1.35 (0.12); SCA2: - 1.15 (0.11); SCA3: - 1.16 (0.11); SCA6: - 0.99 (0.12)] and EQ-5D [SCA1: - 2.88 (0.72); SCA2: - 1.97 (0.49); SCA3: - 2.06 (0.55); SCA6: - 1.03 (0.57)] decreased linearly, whereas PHQ-9 increased [SCA1: 0.15 (0.04); SCA2: 0.09 (0.03); SCA3: 0.06 (0.04); SCA6: 0.07 (0.04)] during the observational period. Standard response means (SRMs) of UHDRS-IV (0.473-0.707) and EQ-5D VAS (0.053-0.184) were lower than that of SARA (0.404-0.979). In SCA1, higher SARA scores [- 0.0288 (0.01), p = 0.0251], longer repeat expansions [- 0.0622 (0.02), p = 0.0002] and the presence of cognitive impairment at baseline [- 0.5381 (0.25), p = 0.0365] were associated with faster UHDRS-IV decline. In SCA3, higher INAS counts were associated with a faster UHDRS-IV decline [- 0.05 (0.02), p = 0.0212]. In SCA1, PHQ-9 progression was faster in patients with cognitive impairment [0.14 (0.07); p = 0.0396].

Conclusions: In the common SCAs, PROMs give complementary information to the information provided by neurological scales. This underlines the importance of PROMs as additional outcome measures in future interventional trials.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00415-018-8954-0DOI Listing
September 2018

Survival in patients with spinocerebellar ataxia types 1, 2, 3, and 6 (EUROSCA): a longitudinal cohort study.

Lancet Neurol 2018 04 13;17(4):327-334. Epub 2018 Mar 13.

Department of Neurology, University of Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany.

Background: Spinocerebellar ataxias are dominantly inherited progressive ataxia disorders that can lead to premature death. We aimed to study the overall survival of patients with the most common spinocerebellar ataxias (SCA1, SCA2, SCA3, and SCA6) and to identify the strongest contributing predictors that affect survival.

Methods: In this longitudinal cohort study (EUROSCA), we enrolled men and women, aged 18 years or older, from 17 ataxia referral centres in ten European countries; participants had positive genetic test results for SCA1, SCA2, SCA3, or SCA6 and progressive, otherwise unexplained, ataxias. Survival was defined as the time from enrolment to death for any reason. We used the Cox regression model adjusted for age at baseline to analyse survival. We used prognostic factors with a p value less than 0·05 from a multivariate model to build nomograms and assessed their performance based on discrimination and calibration. The EUROSCA study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT02440763.

Findings: Between July 1, 2005, and Aug 31, 2006, 525 patients with SCA1 (n=117), SCA2 (n=162), SCA3 (n=139), or SCA6 (n=107) were enrolled and followed up. The 10-year survival rate was 57% (95% CI 47-69) for SCA1, 74% (67-81) for SCA2, 73% (65-82) for SCA3, and 87% (80-94) for SCA6. Factors associated with shorter survival were: dysphagia (hazard ratio 4·52, 95% CI 1·83-11·15) and a higher value for the Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia (SARA) score (1·26, 1·19-1·33) for patients with SCA1; older age at inclusion (1·04, 1·01-1·08), longer CAG repeat length (1·16, 1·03-1·31), and higher SARA score (1·15, 1·10-1·20) for patients with SCA2; older age at inclusion (1·44, 1·20-1·74), dystonia (2·65, 1·21-5·53), higher SARA score (1·26, 1·17-1·35), and negative interaction between CAG and age at inclusion (0·994, 0·991-0·997) for patients with SCA3; and higher SARA score (1·17, 1·08-1·27) for patients with SCA6. The nomogram-predicted probability of 10-year survival showed good discrimination (c index 0·905 [SD 0·027] for SCA1, 0·822 [0·032] for SCA2, 0·891 [0·021] for SCA3, and 0·825 [0·054] for SCA6).

Interpretation: Our study provides quantitative data on the survival of patients with the most common spinocerebellar ataxias, based on a long follow-up period. These results have implications for the design of future interventional studies of spinocerebellar ataxias; for example, the prognostic survival nomogram could be useful for selection and stratification of patients. Our findings need validation in an external population before they can be used to counsel patients and their families.

Funding: European Union 6th Framework programme, German Ministry of Education and Research, Polish Ministry of Scientific Research and Information Technology, European Union 7th Framework programme, and Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(18)30042-5DOI Listing
April 2018

Body Mass Index Decline Is Related to Spinocerebellar Ataxia Disease Progression.

Mov Disord Clin Pract 2017 Sep-Oct;4(5):689-697. Epub 2017 Aug 11.

Department of Neurology Zala County Hospital Zalaegerszeg Hungary.

Background: Spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) are dominantly inherited, progressive ataxia disorders. Disease progression could be preceded by weight loss.

Objectives: We aimed to study the course of weight loss in patients who had the most common SCAs (SCA1, SCA2 SCA3, and SCA6). Additional objectives were to identify subgroups of weight evolution, to determine the factors influencing these evolutions, and to assess the impact of these evolutions on disease progression.

Methods: In total, 384 patients from the EUROSCA prospective cohort study were analyzed who had SCA1, SCA2, SCA3, or SCA6 and at least 3 measurements of weight. Age was used as a time scale. Clinical outcomes were body mass index (BMI) and the Scale for the Assessment and Rating Ataxia (SARA), with scores ranging from 0 to 40. We used a linear mixed model to analyze the course of BMI and a latent class mixed model to identify subgroup BMI evolution.

Results: Overall, BMI declined over time (-0.11 ± 0.03 kg/m per decade; = 0.0009). Three subgroups of BMI evolution were identified: "decreasing BMI" (n = 88; 23%), "increasing BMI" (n = 70; 18%) and "stable BMI" (n = 226; 59%). Patients in the decreasing BMI group were more severely affected at baseline with higher SARA scores and a higher frequency of non-ataxia signs (especially motor symptoms) compared with those in the other groups. Weight loss was associated with faster disease progression (5.7 ± 0.7 SARA points per decade; = 0.036).

Conclusions: The current data have substantial implications for the design of future interventional studies in SCA, as they provide a basis for patient stratification and emphasize the usefulness of BMI as a biomarker for monitoring disease progression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mdc3.12522DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6174467PMC
August 2017

Hypomorphic mutations in POLR3A are a frequent cause of sporadic and recessive spastic ataxia.

Brain 2017 06;140(6):1561-1578

Institute of Medical Genetics and Applied Genomics, University of Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.

Despite extensive efforts, half of patients with rare movement disorders such as hereditary spastic paraplegias and cerebellar ataxias remain genetically unexplained, implicating novel genes and unrecognized mutations in known genes. Non-coding DNA variants are suspected to account for a substantial part of undiscovered causes of rare diseases. Here we identified mutations located deep in introns of POLR3A to be a frequent cause of hereditary spastic paraplegia and cerebellar ataxia. First, whole-exome sequencing findings in a recessive spastic ataxia family turned our attention to intronic variants in POLR3A, a gene previously associated with hypomyelinating leukodystrophy type 7. Next, we screened a cohort of hereditary spastic paraplegia and cerebellar ataxia cases (n = 618) for mutations in POLR3A and identified compound heterozygous POLR3A mutations in ∼3.1% of index cases. Interestingly, >80% of POLR3A mutation carriers presented the same deep-intronic mutation (c.1909+22G>A), which activates a cryptic splice site in a tissue and stage of development-specific manner and leads to a novel distinct and uniform phenotype. The phenotype is characterized by adolescent-onset progressive spastic ataxia with frequent occurrence of tremor, involvement of the central sensory tracts and dental problems (hypodontia, early onset of severe and aggressive periodontal disease). Instead of the typical hypomyelination magnetic resonance imaging pattern associated with classical POLR3A mutations, cases carrying c.1909+22G>A demonstrated hyperintensities along the superior cerebellar peduncles. These hyperintensities may represent the structural correlate to the cerebellar symptoms observed in these patients. The associated c.1909+22G>A variant was significantly enriched in 1139 cases with spastic ataxia-related phenotypes as compared to unrelated neurological and non-neurological phenotypes and healthy controls (P = 1.3 × 10-4). In this study we demonstrate that (i) autosomal-recessive mutations in POLR3A are a frequent cause of hereditary spastic ataxias, accounting for about 3% of hitherto genetically unclassified autosomal recessive and sporadic cases; and (ii) hypomyelination is frequently absent in POLR3A-related syndromes, especially when intronic mutations are present, and thus can no longer be considered as the unifying feature of POLR3A disease. Furthermore, our results demonstrate that substantial progress in revealing the causes of Mendelian diseases can be made by exploring the non-coding sequences of the human genome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awx095DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6402316PMC
June 2017

mutations cause CNS hypomyelination and neuropathy with or without arthrogryposis.

Neurol Genet 2017 Apr 22;3(2):e144. Epub 2017 Mar 22.

Department of Neurology and Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain Research (H.H., R. Schüle, L.S.), University of Tübingen, Germany; German Center of Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) (H.H., R.S., L.S.), Tübingen, Germany; Northern Ireland Regional Genetics Service (A.M.), Belfast City Hospital, Belfast; Department of Neurology (J.-M.V.), National Reference Center for Rare Peripheral Neuropathies, University Hospital, Limoges, France; Institute for Neuroscience and Muscle Research (R.O.), The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; The Triangle Regional Research and Development Center (R. Sharkia), Kfar Qari' Israel; Beit-Berl Academic College (R. Sharkia), Israel; Child Neurology and Development Center (M.M.), Hillel-Yaffe Medical Center, Hadera, Israel; Rappaport Faculty of Medicine (M.M.), Technion, Haifa, Israel; Institute of Medical Genetics and Applied Genomics (M.S.), University of Tübingen, Germany; Department of Pediatric Neurology (I.K.-M.), University Medical Center Tübingen, Germany; Hussman Institute for Human Genomics (S.Z.), University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, FL; Clalit Health Services (M.A.-R.), Haifa, Israel; and Meuhedet Health Services (J.M.), North District, Israel.

Objective: To explore the phenotypic spectrum and pathophysiology of human disease deriving from mutations in the gene.

Methods: In a field study on consanguineous Palestinian families, we identified 3 patients carrying homozygous mutations in the gene using whole-exome sequencing. An unrelated Irish family was detected by screening the GENESIS database for further mutations. Neurophysiology, MRI, and nerve biopsy including electron microscopy were performed for deep phenotyping.

Results: We identified 3 novel mutations in 5 patients from 2 families: c.2015G>A:p.(Trp672*) in a homozygous state in family 1 and c.2011C>T:p.(Gln671*) in a compound heterozygous state with c.2290C>T:p.(Arg764Cys) in family 2. Affected patients suffered from a severe CNS disorder with hypomyelinating leukodystrophy and peripheral neuropathy of sensory-motor type. Arthrogryposis was present in 2 patients but absent in 3 patients. Brain MRI demonstrated severe hypomyelination and secondary cerebral and cerebellar atrophy as well as a mega cisterna magna and corpus callosum hypoplasia. Nerve biopsy revealed very distinct features with lack of transverse bands at the paranodes and widened paranodal junctional gaps.

Conclusions: mutations have recently been linked to patients with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita. However, we show that arthrogryposis is not an obligate feature. -related disorders are foremost severe hypomyelinating disorders of the CNS and the peripheral nervous system. The pathology is partly explained by the involvement of CNTNAP1 in the proper formation and preservation of paranodal junctions and partly by the assumed role of CNTNAP1 as a key regulator in the development of the cerebral cortex.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/NXG.0000000000000144DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5363873PMC
April 2017

Effects of acetyl-DL-leucine on cerebellar ataxia (ALCAT trial): study protocol for a multicenter, multinational, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover phase III trial.

BMC Neurol 2017 Jan 10;17(1). Epub 2017 Jan 10.

Department of Neurology with Friedrich-Baur-Institute, University Hospital, Munich, Germany.

Background: Cerebellar ataxia (CA) is a frequent and often disabling condition that impairs motor functioning and impacts on quality of life (QoL). No medication has yet been proven effective for the symptomatic or even causative treatment of hereditary or non-hereditary, non-acquired CA. So far, the only treatment recommendation is physiotherapy. Therefore, new therapeutic options are needed. Based on three observational studies, the primary objective of the acetyl-DL-leucine on ataxia (ALCAT) trial is to examine the efficacy and tolerability of a symptomatic therapy with acetyl-DL-leucine compared to placebo on motor function measured by the Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia (SARA) in patients with CA.

Methods/design: An investigator-initiated, multicenter, European, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, 2-treatment 2-period crossover phase III trial will be carried out. In total, 108 adult patients who meet the clinical criteria of CA of different etiologies (hereditary or non-hereditary, non-acquired) presenting with a SARA total score of at least 3 points will be randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to one of two different treatment sequences, either acetyl-DL-leucine (up to 5 g per day) followed by placebo or vice versa. Each sequence consists of two 6-week treatment periods, separated by a 4-week wash-out period. A follow-up examination is scheduled 4 weeks after the end of treatment. The primary efficacy outcome is the absolute change in the SARA total score. Secondary objectives are to demonstrate that acetyl-DL-leucine is effective in improving (1) motor function measured by the Spinocerebellar Ataxia Functional Index (SCAFI) and SARA subscore items and (2) QoL (EuroQoL 5 dimensions and 5 level version, EQ-5D-5 L), depression (Beck Depression Inventory, BDI-II) and fatigue (Fatigue Severity Score, FSS). Furthermore, the incidence of adverse events will be investigated.

Discussion: The results of this trial will inform whether symptomatic treatment with the modified amino-acid acetyl-DL-leucine is a worthy candidate for a new drug therapy to relieve ataxia symptoms and to improve patient care. If superiority of the experimental drug to placebo can be established it will also be re-purposing of an agent that has been previously used for the symptomatic treatment of dizziness.

Trial Registration: The trial was prospectively registered at www.clinicaltrialsregister.eu (EudraCT no. 2015-000460-34) and at https://www.germanctr.de (DRKS-ID: DRKS00009733 ).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12883-016-0786-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5223431PMC
January 2017
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