Background and Objective: Alexander disease is a slowly progressive CNS disorder that most commonly occurs in children. Until recently, the diagnosis could only be established by the histologic finding of Rosenthal fibers in brain specimens. Mutations in the glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) gene have now been shown in a number of biopsy- or autopsy-proven patients with Alexander disease. A prospective study on patients suspected to have Alexander disease was conducted to determine the extent to which clinical and MRI criteria could accurately diagnose affected individuals, using GFAP gene sequencing as the confirmatory assay. Methods: Patients who showed MRI white matter abnormalities consistent with Alexander disease, unremarkable family history, normal karyotype, and normal metabolic screening were included in this study. Genomic DNA from patients was screened for mutations in the entire coding region, including the exon-intron boundaries, of the GFAP gene. Results: Twelve of 13 patients (-90%) were found to have mutations in GFAP. Seven of those 12 patients presented in infancy with seizures and megalencephaly. Five were juvenile-onset patients with more variable symptoms. Two patients in the latter group were asymptomatic or minimally affected at the time of their initial MRI scan. The mutations were distributed throughout the gene, and all involved sporadic single amino acid heterozygous changes that changed the charge of the mutant protein. Four of the nine changes were novel mutations. Conclusions: In symptomatic and asymptomatic patients with a predominantly frontal leukoencephalopathy by MRI, GFAP gene mutation analysis should be included in the initial diagnostic evaluation process for Alexander disease.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Neurology