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Neurology. 2000 Nov 28;55(10):1442-9.

Cockayne syndrome and xeroderma pigmentosum.

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Department of Neurology, Rose F. Kennedy Center for Research in Mental Retardation and Human Development, Albert Einstein College of Medicine,Bronx, NY, USA.



To review genetic variants of Cockayne syndrome (CS) and xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), autosomal recessive disorders of DNA repair that affect the nervous system, and to illustrate them by the first case of xeroderma pigmentosum-Cockayne syndrome (XP-CS) complex to undergo neuropathologic examination.


Published reports of clinical, pathologic, and molecular studies of CS, XP neurologic disease, and the XP-CS complex were reviewed, and a ninth case of XP-CS is summarized.


CS is a multisystem disorder that causes both profound growth failure of the soma and brain and progressive cachexia, retinal, cochlear, and neurologic degeneration, with a leukodystrophy and demyelinating neuropathy without an increase in cancer. XP presents as extreme photosensitivity of the skin and eyes with a 1000-fold increased frequency of cutaneous basal and squamous cell carcinomas and melanomas and a small increase in nervous system neoplasms. Some 20% of patients with XP incur progressive degeneration of previously normally developed neurons resulting in cortical, basal ganglia, cerebellar, and spinal atrophy, cochlear degeneration, and a mixed distal axonal neuropathy. Cultured cells from patients with CS or XP are hypersensitive to killing by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Both CS and most XP cells have defective DNA nucleotide excision repair of actively transcribing genes; in addition, XP cells have defective repair of the global genome. There are two complementation groups in CS and seven in XP. Patients with the XP-CS complex fall into three XP complementation groups. Despite their XP genotype, six of nine individuals with the XP-CS complex, including the boy we followed up to his death at age 6, had the typical clinically and pathologically severe CS phenotype. Cultured skin and blood cells had extreme sensitivity to killing by UV radiation, DNA repair was severely deficient, post-UV unscheduled DNA synthesis was reduced to less than 5%, and post-UV plasmid mutation frequency was increased.


The paradoxical lack of parallelism of phenotype to genotype is unexplained in these disorders. Perhaps diverse mutations responsible for UV sensitivity and deficient DNA repair may also produce profound failure of brain and somatic growth, progressive cachexia and premature aging, and tissue-selective neurologic deterioration by their roles in regulation of transcription and repair of endogenous oxidative DNA damage.

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