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Brain. 1999 Aug;122 ( Pt 8):1539-50.

Autosomal dominant juvenile amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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Departments of Neurology, Neuroscience and Pathology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Division of Neurology, Sinai Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Juvenile amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a form of chronic motor neuron disease characterized by combined upper and lower motor neuron symptoms and signs with onset prior to age 25 years. We report the clinical and electrodiagnostic findings in 49 affected family members and neuropathological findings from two autopsies of a Maryland kindred with autosomal dominant juvenile ALS linked to the chromosome 9q34 region (ALS4). Patients ranged in age from 12 to 85 years (mean 45 years) and the mean age of onset was 17 years. Distal weakness and atrophy was associated with pyramidal signs (43/49) and normal sensation (44/49). Motor conduction studies (n = 8) showed reduced evoked amplitudes and normal conduction parameters. Sensory conduction studies (n = 8), quantitative sensory testing (n = 4) and intracutaneous sensory fibres in skin biopsies (n = 6) were normal in all patients tested. Electromyography showed distal more than proximal chronic partial denervation and reinnervation (n = 8). Post-mortem spinal cord tissue demonstrated atrophic spinal cords with marked loss of anterior horn cells and degeneration of corticospinal tracts, as well as loss of neurons in the dorsal root ganglia and degeneration of the posterior columns. Axonal spheroids were present in the grey matter of the spinal cord, the dorsal root entry zones and the peripheral nerves. Motor and sensory roots, as well as peripheral nerves, showed significant axonal loss. Swellings were prominent around motor neurons, probably representing changes in presynaptic terminals. These studies define autosomal dominant juvenile ALS linked to the chromosome 9q34 region (ALS4) and extend the clinical, pathological and genetic heterogeneity of familial ALS and juvenile ALS.

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