Hypomyelinating leukodystrophies in adults: Clinical and genetic features

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Background and purpose: Little is known about hypomyelinating leukodystrophies (HLDs) in adults. The aim of this study was to investigate HLD occurrence, clinical features, and etiology among undefined leukoencephalopathies in adulthood. Methods: We recruited the patients with cerebral hypomyelinating magnetic resonance imaging pattern (mild T2 hyperintensity with normal or near-normal T1 signal) from our cohort of 62 adult index cases with undefined leukoencephalopathies, reviewed their clinical features, and used a leukoencephalopathy-targeted next generation sequencing panel. Results: We identified 25/62 patients (~40%) with hypomyelination. Cardinal manifestations were spastic gait and varying degree of cognitive impairment. Etiology was determined in 44% (definite, 10/25; likely, 1/25). Specifically, we found pathogenic variants in the POLR3A (n = 2), POLR1C (n = 1), RARS1 (n = 1), and TUBB4A (n = 1) genes, which are typically associated with severe early-onset HLDs, and in the GJA1 gene (n = 1), which is associated with oculodentodigital dysplasia. Duplication of a large chromosome X region encompassing PLP1 and a pathogenic GJC2 variant were found in two patients, both females, with early-onset HLDs persisting into adulthood. Finally, we found likely pathogenic variants in PEX3 (n = 1) and PEX13 (n = 1) and potentially relevant variants of unknown significance in TBCD (n = 1), which are genes associated with severe, early-onset diseases with central hypomyelination/dysmyelination. Conclusions: A hypomyelinating pattern characterizes a relevant number of undefined leukoencephalopathies in adulthood. A comprehensive genetic screening allows definite diagnosis in about half of patients, and demonstrates the involvement of many disease-causing genes, including genes associated with severe early-onset HLDs, and genes causing peroxisome biogenesis disorders.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Neurology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020


  • genetic leukoencephalopathies
  • hypomyelination
  • leukodystrophies
  • peroxisome biogenesis disorders
  • spastic paraplegias

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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