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NEUROACANTHOCYTOSIS

R. J. HARDIE, H. W. H. PULLON, A. E. HARDING, J. S. OWEN, M. PIRES, G. L. DANIELS, Y. IMAI, V. P. MISRA, R. H. M. KING, J. M. JACOBS, P. TIPPETT, L. W. DUCHEN, P. K. THOMAS, C. D. MARSDEN
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/ 13-49 First published online: 1 February 1991

Summary

Nineteen cases are described, including 12 cases from three different families and 7 nonfamilial cases, in which multisystem neurological disease was associated with acanthocytosis in peripheral blood and normal plasma lipoproteins. Mild acanthocytosis can easily be overlooked, and scanning electron microscopy may be helpful. Some neurologically asymptomatic relatives with significant acanthocytosis were identified during family screening, including some who were clinically affected.

The mean age of onset was 32 (range 8–62) yrs and the clinical course was usually progressive but there was marked phenotypic variation. Cognitive impairment, psychiatric features and organic personality change occurred in over half the cases, and more than one-third had seizures. Orofaciolingual involuntary movements and pseudobulbar disturbance commonly caused dysphagia and dysarthria that was sometimes severe, but biting of the lips or tongue was rarely seen. Chorea was seen in almost all symptomatic cases but dystonia, tics, involuntary vocalizations and akinetic-rigid features also occurred. Two cases had no movement disorder at all. Computerized tomography often demonstrated cerebral atrophy. Caudate atrophy was seen less commonly, and nonspecific focal and symmetric signal abnormalities from the caudate or lentiform nuclei were seen by magnetic resonance imaging in 3 out of 4 cases.

Depression or absence of tendon reflexes was noted in 13 cases and neurophysiological abnormalities often indicated an axonal neuropathy. Sural nerve biopsies from 3 cases showed evidence of a chronic axonal neuropathy with prominent regenerative activity, predominantly affecting the large diameter myelinated fibres. Serum creatine kinase activity was increased in 11 cases but without clinical evidence of a myopathy.

Postmortem neuropathological examination in 1 case revealed extensive neuronal loss and gliosis affecting the corpus striatum, pallidum, and the substantia nigra, especially the pars reticulata. The cerebral cortex appeared spared and the spinal cord showed no evidence of anterior horn cell loss.

Two examples of the McLeod phenotype, an X-linked abnormality of expression of Kell blood group antigens, were identified in a single family and included 1 female. The genetics of neuroacanthocytosis are unclear and probably heterogeneous, but the available pedigree data and the association with the McLeod phenotype suggest that there may be a locus for this disorder on the short arm of the X chromosome.