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DNA Repair (Amst). 2008 Jul 1;7(7):1028-38. doi: 10.1016/j.dnarep.2008.03.006. Epub 2008 May 5.

The neurological phenotype of ataxia-telangiectasia: solving a persistent puzzle.

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Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.


Human genomic instability syndromes affect the nervous system to different degrees of severity, attesting to the vulnerability of the CNS to perturbations of genomic integrity and the DNA damage response (DDR). Ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) is a typical genomic instability syndrome whose major characteristic is progressive neuronal degeneration but is also associated with immunodeficiency, cancer predisposition and acute sensitivity to ionizing radiation and radiomimetic chemicals. A-T is caused by loss or inactivation of the ATM protein kinase, which mobilizes the complex, multi-branched cellular response to double strand breaks in the DNA by phosphorylating numerous DDR players. The link between ATM's function in the DDR and the neuronal demise in A-T has been questioned in the past. However, recent studies of the ATM-mediated DDR in neurons suggest that the neurological phenotype in A-T is indeed caused by deficiency in this function, similar to other features of the disease. Still, major issues concerning this phenotype remain open, including the presumed differences between the DDR in post-mitotic neurons and proliferating cells, the nature of the damage that accumulates in the DNA of ATM-deficient neurons under normal life conditions, the mode of death of ATM-deficient neurons, and the lack of a major neuronal phenotype in the mouse model of A-T. A-T remains a prototype disease for the study of the DDR's role in CNS development and maintenance.

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