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Pyridoxine-Dependent Epilepsy

Synonyms: Pyridoxine Dependency, Pyridoxine-Dependent Seizures, Vitamin B6-Dependent Seizures

, MD, PhD.

Author Information

Initial Posting: ; Last Update: April 13, 2017.

Estimated reading time: 26 minutes


Clinical characteristics.

Pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy is characterized by intractable seizures within the first weeks to months of life that are not controlled with antiepileptic drugs but respond both clinically and electrographically to large daily supplements of pyridoxine (vitamin B6). Multiple types of clinical seizures have been reported in individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy. Dramatic presentations consisting of prolonged seizures and recurrent episodes of status epilepticus are typical; recurrent self-limited events including partial seizures, generalized seizures, atonic seizures, myoclonic events, and infantile spasms also occur. Affected individuals may have electrographic seizures without clinical correlates. Infants with the classic neonatal presentation begin to experience seizures soon after birth. Atypical features include: late-onset seizures (seizures that begin from late infancy up until age 3 years); seizures that initially respond to antiepileptic drugs and then become intractable; seizures during early life that do not respond to pyridoxine but are then controlled with pyridoxine several months later; and prolonged seizure-free intervals (≤5.5 months) that occur after discontinuation of pyridoxine. Intellectual disability is common.

Elevated concentration of α-aminoadipic semialdehyde (α-AASA) in urine and plasma is a strong biomarker of the disorder; pipecolic acid may also be elevated in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid.


The diagnosis of pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy is established in a proband: (a) showing a clinical response to pyridoxine administration followed by biochemical testing showing the presence of biomarkers; and/or (b) by the identification of biallelic pathogenic variants in ALDH7A1. Clinical diagnosis may be made in individuals experiencing status epilepticus or repetitive clinical seizures that are not controlled with antiepileptic drugs by concurrently administering 100 mg of pyridoxine intravenously while monitoring the EEG, oxygen saturation, and vital signs. In individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy, clinical seizures generally cease over several minutes. If a clinical response is not demonstrated, the dose should be repeated up to a maximum of 500 mg. A corresponding change should be observed in the EEG, although it may be delayed by several hours. Alternatively, in children who experience frequent antiepileptic drug-resistant self-limited seizures, oral pyridoxine at a dose of 30 mg/kg/day may be initiated. Children who are pyridoxine dependent should have a resolution of their clinical seizures within three to seven days.


Treatment of manifestations: Pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy is initially controlled with the addition of daily supplements of pyridoxine; subsequently, in the majority of affected individuals all antiepileptic drugs can be withdrawn and seizure control continued with daily pyridoxine monotherapy in pharmacologic doses. To prevent exacerbation of clinical seizures and/or encephalopathy during an acute illness, the daily dose of pyridoxine may be doubled for several days. Special education programs are offered to affected individuals.

Prevention of secondary complications: Overuse of pyridoxine can cause a reversible sensory neuropathy.

Surveillance: Monitoring for development of clinical signs of a sensory neuropathy and regular assessments of intellectual function.

Evaluation of relatives at risk:

  • If the pathogenic variants in the family are known, molecular genetic testing of at-risk newborn sibs of a proband for early diagnosis and treatment to reduce morbidity and mortality.
  • If the pathogenic variants in the family are not known and the at-risk sib is experiencing clinical seizures or encephalopathy, administration of pyridoxine acutely (under EEG monitoring) for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

Pregnancy management: Supplemental maternal pyridoxine at a dose of 50-100 mg per day throughout the last half of pregnancy and after birth may be considered if the fetus is known to be affected or, if diagnostic prenatal testing is not pursued, in an at-risk fetus and neonate, until the diagnosis has been ruled out.

Genetic counseling.

Pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner. At conception, each sib of an affected individual has a 25% chance of being affected, a 50% chance of being an asymptomatic carrier, and a 25% chance of being unaffected and not a carrier. Carrier testing for at-risk relatives and prenatal diagnosis for pregnancies at increased risk are possible if both pathogenic variants in a family are known.


Suggestive Findings

Pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy should be suspected in individuals with the following clinical, family history, and supportive laboratory findings.

Clinical features

  • Seizures in any child under age one year without an apparent brain malformation as the cause of the epilepsy
  • Cryptogenic seizures in a previously normal infant without an abnormal gestational or perinatal history
  • Neonates with a phenotype suggestive of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and with difficult-to-control seizures
  • The occurrence of long-lasting focal or unilateral seizures, often with partial preservation of consciousness
  • Infants and children with seizures that are partially responsive to antiepileptic drugs, in particular if associated with developmental delay and intellectual disability
  • Irritability, restlessness, crying, and vomiting preceding the actual seizures
  • Individuals with a history of transient or unclear response of seizures to pyridoxine
  • Infants and children with a history of seizures responsive to folinic acid

Family history

  • A severe convulsive disorder in a sib, often leading to death during status epilepticus
  • Parental consanguinity

Supportive laboratory findings

  • Elevated plasma and urinary alpha-aminoadipic semialdehyde (α-AASA)
  • Elevated concentrations of pipecolic acid in plasma and cerebral spinal fluid
    Note: Pipecolic acid concentrations may normalize after many years of therapy [Plecko et al 2005].
  • Analysis of cerebrospinal fluid monoamine metabolites via HPLC with electrochemical detection demonstrating:
  • Newborn screening. The biomarker AASA has been shown to be present in blood specimens (newborn blood spots) from neonates subsequently diagnosed with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy [Jung et al 2013]. However, newborn screening for pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy is currently not available on a clinical basis.

Establishing the Diagnosis

The diagnosis of pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy is established in a proband showing a clinical response to pyridoxine administration, followed by biochemical testing showing the presence of biomarkers; and/or by the identification of biallelic pathogenic variants in ALDH7A1 (see Table 1).

A clinical diagnosis may be made:

  • On an acute basis in individuals experiencing clinical seizures by concurrently administering 100 mg of pyridoxine intravenously while monitoring the EEG, oxygen saturation, and vital signs [Baxter 2001, Stockler et al 2011]:
    • In individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy, clinical seizures generally cease over a period of several minutes.
    • If a clinical response is not demonstrated, the dose should be repeated up to a maximum of 500 mg.
    • A corresponding change should be observed in the EEG; in some circumstances, the change may be delayed by several hours.
    • In some individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy, significant neurologic and cardiorespiratory depression follows this trial, making close systemic monitoring essential.
  • By administering 30 mg/kg/day of pyridoxine orally. In individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy, clinical seizures should cease within three to five days [Baxter 2001, Gospe 2006, Stockler et al 2011].

Note: In the past, the clinical diagnosis of pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy was confirmed by withdrawing antiepileptic drugs, followed by the withdrawal of daily pyridoxine supplementation and then successfully treating a recurrence of seizures with pyridoxine. Now that measurement of biomarkers supportive of a diagnosis of pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy is clinically available, this sequence of therapeutic changes is not necessary. In an individual with a clinical phenotype suggestive of pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy, daily pyridoxine supplementation should be continued while biomarker testing is pursued.

Molecular genetic testing approaches can include single-gene testing and use of a multigene panel:

  • Single-gene testing. Sequence analysis of ALDH7A1 is performed first and followed by gene-targeted deletion/duplication analysis if only one or no pathogenic variant is found.
  • A multigene panel that includes ALDH7A1 and other genes of interest (see Differential Diagnosis) may also be considered. Note: (1) The genes included in the panel and the diagnostic sensitivity of the testing used for each gene vary by laboratory and are likely to change over time. (2) Some multigene panels may include genes not associated with the condition discussed in this GeneReview; thus, clinicians need to determine which multigene panel is most likely to identify the genetic cause of the condition at the most reasonable cost while limiting identification of variants of uncertain significance and pathogenic variants in genes that do not explain the underlying phenotype. (3) In some laboratories, panel options may include a custom laboratory-designed panel and/or custom phenotype-focused exome analysis that includes genes specified by the clinician. (4) Methods used in a panel may include sequence analysis, deletion/duplication analysis, and/or other non-sequencing-based tests.
    For an introduction to multigene panels click here. More detailed information for clinicians ordering genetic tests can be found here.

Table 1.

Molecular Genetic Testing Used in Pyridoxine-Dependent Epilepsy

Gene 1Test MethodProportion of Probands with Pathogenic Variants 2 Detectable by This Method
ALDH7A1Sequence analysis 399/100 4
Gene-targeted deletion/duplication analysis 58 individuals with exon deletions 4
Unknown 6NA

See Molecular Genetics for information on allelic variants detected in this gene.


Sequence analysis detects variants that are benign, likely benign, of uncertain significance, likely pathogenic, or pathogenic. Pathogenic variants may include small intragenic deletions/insertions and missense, nonsense, and splice site variants; typically, exon or whole-gene deletions/duplications are not detected. For issues to consider in interpretation of sequence analysis results, click here.


99 /100 families with individuals with both clinical and biomarker evidence of pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy had two identifiable pathogenic variants identified by sequence analysis or deletion analysis. Of these 99 kindreds, 91 affected individuals had two pathogenic variants identified by sequence analysis [Mills et al 2006, Kanno et al 2007, Plecko et al 2007, Bennett et al 2009, Mills et al 2010, Scharer et al 2010, Pérez et al 2013]. Seven additional affected individuals had one pathogenic variant identified by sequence analysis with the second variant demonstrated by deletion/deletion analysis [Kanno et al 2007, Plecko et al 2007, Mefford et al 2015]. One affected individual had biallelic large deletions [Pérez et al 2013]. The one final affected individual with confirmed pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy had one pathogenic variant identified by sequence analysis and no second variant identified by either sequence analysis or deletion/duplication analysis [Kluger et al 2008, Mefford et al 2015].


Gene-targeted deletion/duplication analysis detects intragenic deletions or duplications. Methods used may include: quantitative PCR, long-range PCR, multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA), and a gene-targeted microarray designed to detect single-exon deletions or duplications.


Evidence for locus heterogeneity:
a. Assignment to the chromosome 5q31 pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy locus was excluded on the basis of haplotype analysis in one of the six North American pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy pedigrees. The affected children in the family had late-onset infantile spasms responsive to pyridoxine therapy [Bennett et al 2005]. A later study failed to detect ALDH7A1 pathogenic variants in these children and in two additional children presenting with pyridoxine-responsive late-onset infantile spasms [Bennett et al 2009].
b. Very late-onset pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy presented in a female age eight years in whom linkage to the 5q31 locus was excluded by haplotype analysis [Kabakus et al 2008].
c. Individuals with neonatal-onset pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy resulting from biallelic pathogenic variants in PROSC have been described (see Differential Diagnosis) [Darin et al 2016].

Clinical Characteristics

Clinical Description

The one clinical feature characteristic of all individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy is intractable seizures that are not controlled with antiepileptic drugs but that respond both clinically and electrographically to large daily supplements of pyridoxine.

Classic Pyridoxine-Dependent Epilepsy

Multiple types of clinical seizures have been reported in individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy. Although dramatic presentations consisting of prolonged seizures and recurrent episodes of status epilepticus are typical, recurrent self-limited events including partial, generalized, and atonic seizures; myoclonic events; and infantile spasms also occur. Affected individuals may have electrographic seizures without clinical correlates.

Newborns with the classic neonatal presentation begin to experience seizures soon after birth.

  • In retrospect, many mothers recount unusual intrauterine movements that may have started in the late second trimester and that likely represent fetal seizures [Baxter 2001].
  • Affected neonates frequently have periods of encephalopathy (irritability, crying, fluctuating tone, poor feeding) that precede the onset of clinical seizures. Low Apgar scores, abnormal cord blood gases, and other abnormalities of blood chemistries may also be observed. For this reason, it is not uncommon for these newborns to be diagnosed with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy [Baxter 1999, Mills et al 2010, van Karnebeek et al 2016].
  • Clinical seizures may be associated with facial grimacing and abnormal eye movements [Schmitt et al 2010].

Similar periods of encephalopathy may be seen in older infants with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy, particularly prior to recurrence of clinical seizures, which occur in children treated with pyridoxine whose vitamin requirement may have increased because of growth or intercurrent infection, particularly gastroenteritis.

Intellectual disability, particularly with expressive language, is common in individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy.

  • It has been suggested that an earlier onset of clinical seizures corresponds to a worse prognosis for cognitive function, and the length of the delay in diagnosis and initiation of effective pyridoxine treatment correlates with increased handicaps [Baxter 2001, Kluger et al 2008, Basura et al 2009].
  • Seizures in some individuals with molecularly confirmed pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy are incompletely controlled with pyridoxine, and concurrent treatment with one or more antiepileptic drugs is required. Significant intellectual disability is present in these individuals [Basura et al 2009, Scharer et al 2010].
  • Some affected individuals with normal intellectual function have been reported [Ohtsuka et al 1999, Basura et al 2009, Bok et al 2012, van Karnebeek et al 2016].
  • Few formal psychometric assessments in individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy have been performed. These limited studies have inconsistent findings. Two earlier studies indicate that verbal skills are more impaired than nonverbal skills [Baxter et al 1996, Baynes et al 2003] while a more recent report suggests that verbal IQ is slightly (but not significantly) higher than performance IQ [Bok et al 2012].

Atypical Pyridoxine-Dependent Epilepsy

Late-onset and other atypical features of this phenotypically heterogeneous disorder have been described [Goutières & Aicardi 1985, Coker 1992, Basura et al 2009, van Karnebeek et al 2016]. These include:

  • Late-onset seizures (seizures that begin during late infancy up until age 3 years)
  • Seizures that initially respond to antiepileptic drugs and then become intractable
  • Seizures during early life that do not respond to pyridoxine but that are then controlled with pyridoxine several months later
  • Prolonged seizure-free intervals (age ≤5.5 months) that occur after pyridoxine discontinuation


While a variety of EEG abnormalities have been described in individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy, none is pathognomonic for this condition [Mikati et al 1991, Nabbout et al 1999, Naasan et al 2009, Bok et al 2010b, Mills et al 2010, Schmitt et al 2010].

Several imaging abnormalities have been reported in individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy:

Genotype-Phenotype Correlations

More than 80 ALDH7A1 sequence alterations have been documented in both neonatal-onset and late-onset cases; however, no firm genotype-phenotype correlations are known [Mills et al 2006, Kanno et al 2007, Plecko et al 2007, Rankin et al 2007, Salomons et al 2007, Bennett et al 2009, Striano et al 2009, Mills et al 2010, Scharer et al 2010, Stockler et al 2011, Bok et al 2012, Pérez et al 2013, Tlili et al 2013, van Karnebeek & Gospe 2015, Mefford et al 2015, van Karnebeek et al 2016].

The "common" p.Glu399Gln pathogenic variant in exon 14 (see Molecular Genetics, Pathogenic variants) is responsible for approximately 30% of the mutated alleles. This pathogenic missense variant has been observed in both neonatal- and late-onset cases [Bennett et al 2009].

Pathogenic missense variants that result in residual enzyme activity may be associated with a more favorable developmental phenotype [Scharer et al 2010].


First described by Hunt et al [1954], pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy is generally considered to be a rare cause of intractable neonatal seizures. Prior to the discovery of the biochemical and genetic abnormalities underlying pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy, approximately 100 affected individuals had been reported [Baxter 1999]. Subsequently, ALDH7A1 sequence analysis has been conducted and reported on many of these individuals along with several others.

A few epidemiologic studies of this condition have been conducted.

  • In the northern part of the United Kingdom, the prevalence of pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy in children younger than age 16 years was estimated at 1:100,000 [Baxter et al 1996].
  • National studies in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland noted a prevalence of approximately 1:700,000 [Baxter 1999].
  • A survey conducted in the Netherlands estimated a birth incidence of 1:396,000 [Been et al 2005].
  • A study conducted in Germany, where pyridoxine administration is part of a standard treatment protocol for neonatal seizures, reported a birth incidence of probable cases of 1:20,000 [Ebinger et al 1999].

Differential Diagnosis

Pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy should be considered as a cause of intractable seizures presenting in neonates, infants, and children up to the third year of life for which an underlying lesion (i.e., symptomatic epilepsy) has not been identified. In particular, this diagnosis needs to be investigated in any neonate who presents with encephalopathy and seizures and in whom there is no convincing evidence of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or other identifiable underlying metabolic disturbance [Baxter 1999, Stockler et al 2011].

Neonatal and Childhood Epilepsy Conditions

Other causes of intractable neonatal seizures include the following:

Other causes of neonatal seizures in which elevated levels of α-AASA may be present:

Epilepsy, early-onset, vitamin B6-dependent (OMIM 617290) is caused by biallelic pathogenic variants in PROSC (prolone synthetase co-transcribed homolog [bacterial]), which encodes a protein that is involved in the intracellular homeostatic regulation of pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (PLP), the biologically active form of pyridoxine [Darin et al 2016]. Seven individuals with this form of vitamin B6-dependent epilepsy have been reported (3 from 1 kindred) with six of the affected individuals experiencing clinical seizures on the first day of life while the first seizure in the other affected individual occurred at age one month. During intrauterine life, three of the affected individuals were reported to have abnormal intrauterine movements; four showed signs of fetal distress, including metabolic acidosis with increased blood lactate levels noted within the first few days of life. While all seven demonstrated a clinical response to pyridoxine treatment, five of the six surviving affected individuals also require the use of antiepileptic drugs. With the exception of the one person whose seizures developed at age one month, all affected individuals have acquired microcephaly. All of the six surviving affected individuals have some degree of speech, motor, and learning developmental delays.

Pyridoxine-responsive seizures. Some children with intractable seizures may have only partial improvement in seizure control with the addition of pyridoxine. In this situation, or in instances in which seizures recur after antiepileptic drugs are withdrawn and pyridoxine is continued, individuals who have not had molecular confirmation should not be diagnosed with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy, but rather with "pyridoxine-responsive seizures" [Baxter 1999, Basura et al 2009].

Inborn pyridoxine dependency states. While other inborn pyridoxine dependency states have been described (e.g., pyridoxine-dependent anemia and pyridoxine-dependent forms of homocystinuria, xanthurenic aciduria [OMIM 236800], and cystathioninuria [OMIM 219500]), these conditions are not genetically related to pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy.

Pyridoxal phosphate-responsive epilepsy (PNPO associated) (OMIM 610090), a rare form of autosomal recessive neonatal epileptic encephalopathy, is caused by biallelic pathogenic variants in PNPO (PNPO encodes an enzyme that interconverts the phosphorylated forms of pyridoxine and pyridoxamine to the biologically active pyridoxal 5’-phosphate [PLP]). The initial reports of PNPO deficiency described infants with pharmacoresistant epileptic encephalopathy in whom the seizures responded to PLP but not to pyridoxine, suggesting that this disorder is clinically distinct from pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy [Mills et al 2005, Hoffmann et al 2007, Bagci et al 2008]. However, it was subsequently demonstrated that seizures in some individuals with PNPO deficiency actually responded to pyridoxine rather than to PLP [Pearl et al 2013, Mills et al 2014, Plecko et al 2014]. Therefore, persons with an epileptic encephalopathy responsive to pyridoxine who do not have pathogenic variants in ALDH7A1 or PROSC should have PNPO molecular genetic testing.

Other forms of pyridoxal phosphate-responsive epilepsy. Other children with intractable epilepsy who show a clinical response to pyridoxal phosphate rather than to pyridoxine have been reported [Wang et al 2005]. The biochemical basis of the epileptic condition in these children has not been established [Baxter 2005, Gospe 2006].


Evaluations Following Initial Diagnosis

To establish the extent of disease and needs in an individual diagnosed with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy, the following are appropriate:

  • Developmental assessment
  • Consultation with a clinical geneticist and/or genetic counselor

Treatment of Manifestations

In the majority of individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy, once seizures come under control with the addition of daily supplements of pyridoxine (see Prevention of Primary Manifestations), all antiepileptic drugs can be withdrawn, and seizure control will continue with daily pyridoxine monotherapy in pharmacologic doses.

Special education programs should be offered.

Prevention of Primary Manifestations

The effective treatment of individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy requires lifelong pharmacologic supplements of pyridoxine; the rarity of the disorder has precluded controlled studies to evaluate the optimal dose.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for pyridoxine is 0.5 mg for infants and 2 mg for adults. In general, individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy have excellent seizure control when treated with 50-100 mg of pyridoxine per day. Seizures in some individuals are controlled on much smaller doses and others require somewhat higher doses [Basura et al 2009, Stockler et al 2011].

Affected individuals may have exacerbations of clinical seizures and/or encephalopathy during an acute illness, such as gastroenteritis or a febrile respiratory infection. To prevent such an exacerbation in these circumstances, the daily dose of pyridoxine may be doubled for several days until the acute illness resolves.

Studies have indicated that higher doses may enhance intellectual development; it has been suggested that a dose of 15-30 mg/kg/day may be optimal [Baxter 2001, Stockler et al 2011] and that the dosage should not exceed 500 mg/day [Stockler et al 2011].

Such therapy is required for life; affected individuals are metabolically dependent on the vitamin, rather than pyridoxine deficient. Compliance with pyridoxine supplementation is critical, as status epilepticus may develop within days of pyridoxine discontinuation.

Prevention of Secondary Complications

The overuse of pyridoxine must be avoided, as a reversible sensory neuropathy (ganglionopathy) caused by pyridoxine neurotoxicity can develop. While primarily reported in adults who have received "megavitamin therapy" with pyridoxine, sensory neuropathy has been reported in two persons with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy [McLachlan & Brown 1995, Rankin et al 2007], one of whom was an adolescent who developed a secondary cause of epilepsy and received a pyridoxine dose of 2 g/day [McLachlan & Brown 1995].


Affected individuals should be followed for the development of clinical signs of a sensory neuropathy, including regular assessments of joint-position sense, ankle jerks, gait, and station [Baxter 2001, Stockler et al 2011].

Regular assessments of intellectual function should be offered.

Agents/Circumstances to Avoid

Overuse of pyridoxine (see Prevention of Secondary Complications) is to be avoided.

Evaluation of Relatives at Risk

Empiric treatment of the affected individual’s newborn sib with pyridoxine supplementation should be offered until testing has been completed.

If the ALDH7A1 pathogenic variants in the family are known, molecular genetic testing is appropriate.

If the pathogenic variants are not known, the following is recommended:

  • If a younger sib of a proband presents with encephalopathy or a seizure, pyridoxine should be administered acutely (ideally under EEG monitoring) for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.
  • α-AASA is a sensitive biomarker for pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy while pipecolic acid is an indirect and less sensitive biomarker. If elevated plasma biomarker concentrations have been demonstrated in the proband, a similar elevation in a younger sib would support a diagnosis of pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy.

Note: It would be unlikely for the proband's older sibs who have not experienced seizures to be pyridoxine dependent.

See Genetic Counseling for issues related to testing of at-risk relatives for genetic counseling purposes.

Pregnancy Management

As recurrence risk for couples who have a child with this disorder is 25%, there is justification to treat the mother empirically with supplemental pyridoxine at a dose of 50-100 mg/day throughout the last half of her subsequent pregnancies and to treat the newborn with supplemental pyridoxine to prevent seizures and reduce the risk of neurodevelopmental disability [Baxter & Aicardi 1999, Bok et al 2010a]. It is important to emphasize, however, that at least one severe phenotype has been described in a family in which prenatal treatment of an at-risk sib did not result in an improved neurodevelopmental outcome [Rankin et al 2007].

Molecular genetic testing of ALDH7A1 can be performed prenatally or after birth; if both pathogenic variants are present, pyridoxine treatment should be continued during pregnancy (if prenatal testing is pursued and reveals the fetus to be affected) and after birth; if not, treatment can be withdrawn.

Therapies Under Investigation

As ALDH7A1 encodes the enzyme α-aminoadipic semialdehyde dehydrogenase (antiquitin), which is involved in cerebral lysine catabolism, it has been proposed that persons with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy may benefit from a lysine-restricted diet. A small number of individuals have been treated in this fashion; improvements in development and behavior along with decreased biomarker levels have been described [Stockler et al 2011, van Karnebeek et al 2012]. A protocol for controlled therapeutic trials of lysine restriction in pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy has recently been proposed [van Karnebeek et al 2014].

L-arginine competitively inhibits lysine transport and can therefore reduce lysine levels. Some individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy have difficulty tolerating a lysine-restricted medical diet; in such cases L-arginine supplementation has been offered as an alternative method of lowering lysine levels [Mercimek-Mahmutoglu et al 2014]. The effectiveness of treating pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy with "triple therapy" (a combination of pyridoxine supplementation, lysine restriction, and L-arginine supplementation) has also been studied [Coughlin et al 2015, Mahajnah et al 2016], with promising results in a small number of treated individuals.

A cellular proof of concept for antisense therapy of pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy has been reported [Pérez et al 2013]. Specifically, the silent nucleotide change c.75C>T, a novel splicing variant creating a new donor splice site in exon 1, was rescued in a lymphoblast cell line via antisense therapy.

Search in the US and in Europe for access to information on clinical studies for a wide range of diseases and conditions.

Genetic Counseling

Genetic counseling is the process of providing individuals and families with information on the nature, inheritance, and implications of genetic disorders to help them make informed medical and personal decisions. The following section deals with genetic risk assessment and the use of family history and genetic testing to clarify genetic status for family members. This section is not meant to address all personal, cultural, or ethical issues that individuals may face or to substitute for consultation with a genetics professional. —ED.

Mode of Inheritance

Pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner.

Risk to Family Members

Parents of a proband

  • The parents of an affected child are obligate heterozygotes (i.e., carriers of one ALDH7A1 pathogenic variant).
  • Heterozygotes (carriers) are asymptomatic and are not at risk of developing the disorder.

Sibs of a proband

  • At conception, each sib of an affected individual has a 25% chance of being affected, a 50% chance of being a carrier, and a 25% chance of being unaffected and not a carrier.
  • Heterozygotes (carriers) are asymptomatic and are not at risk of developing the disorder.
  • Even if the sibs of a proband are asymptomatic, molecular genetic testing to determine their genetic status should be considered for the purpose of early diagnosis and treatment of those who have inherited both pathogenic variants (see Evaluation of Relatives at Risk).

Offspring of a proband

  • Adults diagnosed with the disorder are being followed, but the fertility status of these individuals is not known, and there are no published reports concerning the offspring of individuals with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy.
  • Unless an individual with pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy has children with an affected individual or a carrier, his/her offspring will be obligate heterozygotes (carriers) for a pathogenic variant in ALDH7A1.

Other family members. Each sib of the proband's parents is at a 50% risk of being a carrier of an ALDH7A1 pathogenic variant.

Carrier (Heterozygote) Detection

Carrier testing for at-risk relatives requires prior identification of the ALDH7A1 pathogenic variants in the family.

Related Genetic Counseling Issues

See Management, Evaluation of Relatives at Risk for information on evaluating at-risk relatives for the purpose of early diagnosis and treatment.

Family planning

  • The optimal time for determination of genetic risk, clarification of carrier status, and discussion of the availability of prenatal testing is before pregnancy.
  • It is appropriate to offer genetic counseling (including discussion of potential risks to offspring and reproductive options) to young adults who are affected, are carriers, or are at risk of being carriers.

DNA banking is the storage of DNA (typically extracted from white blood cells) for possible future use. Because it is likely that testing methodology and our understanding of genes, allelic variants, and diseases will improve in the future, consideration should be given to banking DNA of affected individuals.

Prenatal Testing and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis

Once the ALDH7A1 pathogenic variant has been identified in an affected family member, prenatal testing for a pregnancy at increased risk and preimplantation genetic diagnosis for pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy are possible.


GeneReviews staff has selected the following disease-specific and/or umbrella support organizations and/or registries for the benefit of individuals with this disorder and their families. GeneReviews is not responsible for the information provided by other organizations. For information on selection criteria, click here.

  • American Epilepsy Society (AES)
  • Epilepsy Foundation
    8301 Professional Place East
    Suite 200
    Landover MD 20785-7223
    Phone: 800-332-1000 (toll-free)
  • International Pyridoxine Dependent Epilepsy Registry
    PDE Consortium

Molecular Genetics

Information in the Molecular Genetics and OMIM tables may differ from that elsewhere in the GeneReview: tables may contain more recent information. —ED.

Table A.

Pyridoxine-Dependent Epilepsy: Genes and Databases

GeneChromosome LocusProteinLocus-Specific DatabasesHGMDClinVar
ALDH7A15q23​.2Alpha-aminoadipic semialdehyde dehydrogenaseALDH7A1 databaseALDH7A1ALDH7A1

Data are compiled from the following standard references: gene from HGNC; chromosome locus from OMIM; protein from UniProt. For a description of databases (Locus Specific, HGMD, ClinVar) to which links are provided, click here.

Table B.

OMIM Entries for Pyridoxine-Dependent Epilepsy (View All in OMIM)


Molecular Genetic Pathogenesis

For many years, it was hypothesized that pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy was caused by an abnormality of the enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), which uses PLP as a cofactor. GAD converts glutamic acid, an excitatory neurotransmitter, into gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Both of these neurotransmitters play important roles in the control of epileptic processes. A number of clinical neurochemical studies indirectly supported this hypothesis. However, several laboratories failed to document genetic linkage of the phenotype to either isoform of GAD [Kure et al 1998, Battaglioli et al 2000, Cormier-Daire et al 2000].

A genome-wide linkage scan of five families of North African descent (4 of whom were consanguineous) mapped a locus for pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy at chromosome 5q31 [Cormier-Daire et al 2000]. ALDH7A1 maps to this region. Pathogenic variants in ALDH7A1 have been demonstrated to cause pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy. ALDH7A1 encodes the protein α-aminoadipic semialdehyde dehydrogenase (also referred to as antiquitin), an aldehyde dehydrogenase with a previously unknown physiologic substrate [Lee et al 1994]. It has now been demonstrated that antiquitin functions as a Δ1-piperideine-6-carboxylate (P6C)-α-AASA dehydrogenase. Abnormal activity of this enzyme results in increased levels of P6C, which is the cyclic Schiff base of α-AASA; these two substances are in equilibrium with one another. P6C, in turn, inactivates PLP by condensing with the cofactor, likely resulting in abnormal metabolism of neurotransmitters [Mills et al 2006]. Antiquitin has been shown to localize to radial glia, astrocytes, and ependymal cells but not to neurons. Deficiency of this protein in pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy is associated with neuronal migration abnormalities and other forms of brain dysgenesis, such as thinning of the corpus callosum [Friedman et al 2014, Jansen et al 2014, Marguet et al 2016, Poliachik et al 2016]. These neurodevelopmental aspects of antiquitin deficiency are not reversible with pyridoxine treatment, lysine restriction, or L-arginine supplementation.

Gene structure. ALDH7A1 has 1809 bases and comprises 18 exons that range from 42 bp to 352 bp in size. The coding region is 1533 bp in length. For a detailed summary of gene and protein information, see Table A, Gene.

Pathogenic variants. Pathogenic variants have been documented in numerous affected families (see Table 1). These include a variety of missense variants, single-base deletions, nonsense variants (probably leading to nonsense-mediated mRNA decay), splice site variants (predicted to cause exon skipping), and exon deletions. Individuals who are either homozygous for a particular pathogenic variant or compound heterozygous for two pathogenic variants have been reported [Mills et al 2006, Kanno et al 2007, Plecko et al 2007, Rankin et al 2007, Salomons et al 2007, Kluger et al 2008, Bennett et al 2009, Gallagher et all 2009, Striano et al 2009, Mills et al 2010, Scharer et al 2010, Bok et al 2012, Pérez et al 2013, Tlili et al 2013, Mefford et al 2015].

Nine pathogenic variants represent 61% of disease alleles and several studies have demonstrated that the glutamine 399 residue is mutated at a frequency of 33%, with the p.Glu399Gln (NM_001182.2:c.1195G>C) pathogenic variant being most common [Plecko et al 2007, Salomons et al 2007, Bennett et al 2009, Mills et al 2010, Scharer et al 2010, Bok et al 2012]. Exon 7 was involved in three of eight kindreds with pathogenic exon deletions in ALDH7A1, suggesting that exon 7 may be somewhat prone to deletion [Plecko et al 2007, Mefford et al 2015].

Normal gene product. ALDH7A1 encodes a protein with 510 amino-acid residues [Mills et al 2006]. The deduced molecular weight of the encoded Δ1-piperideine-6-carboxylate (P6C)-α-AASA dehydrogenase protein (antiquitin) is 55285 [Lee et al 1994].

Abnormal gene product. In one study, the two missense variants, one nonsense variant, and the one documented single-base deletion all result in absent α-AASA dehydrogenase enzyme activity while the second nonsense variant resulted in α-AASA dehydrogenase enzyme activity that was 1.8% of normal [Mills et al 2006]. The effect of selected ALDH7A1 pathogenic variants on antiquitin function has been studied by expressing human antiquitin cDNA in E coli with reduced or absent enzyme activity being demonstrated [Coulter-Mackie et al 2012, Coulter-Mackie et al 2014]. This experimental system may help characterize the pathogenicity of ALDH7A1 variants. Molecular modeling indicates that missense variants are divided into three categories [Scharer et al 2010]:

  • Variants that affect NAD+ cofactor binding or catalysis;
  • Variants that alter the substrate binding pocket; and
  • Variants that potentially disrupt dimer or tetramer assembly of the antiquitin protein.


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Chapter Notes

Author Notes

Pyridoxine-Dependent Epilepsy Patient Registry

For diagnosed patients, operated by the PDE Consortium. The registry may be contacted through the author or at

Revision History

  • 13 April 2017 (ma) Comprehensive update posted live
  • 19 June 2014 (me) Comprehensive update posted live
  • 7 June 2012 (sg) Revision: Table 1 updated
  • 26 April 2012 (sg) Revision: additions to molecular genetic testing table (Table 1); references added
  • 1 March 2012 (me) Comprehensive update posted live
  • 10 November 2009 (me) Comprehensive update posted live
  • 24 July 2007 (cd) Revision: clinical testing available: analyte and sequence analysis; prenatal diagnosis
  • 9 June 2006 (sg) Revision: mutations in ALDH7A1 found to be causative
  • 8 March 2006 (me) Comprehensive update posted live
  • 18 December 2003 (me) Comprehensive update posted live
  • 7 December 2001 (me) Review posted live
  • 17 September 2001 (sg) Original submission
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Bookshelf ID: NBK1486PMID: 20301659


Tests in GTR by Gene

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