Progressive myoclonus epilepsy 1 (EPM1) or Unverricht-Lundborg disease is a human autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disorder caused by mutations in cystatin B (CSTB). The CSTB gene maps to human chromosome 21 and encodes an inhibitor of lysosomal cysteine proteases. Five point mutations have been found, two of which are seen in numerous unrelated patients. However, the main CSTB mutation in EPM1, even among patients of different ethnic origins, is an expansion of a dodecamer repeat (CCCCGCCCCGCG) in the 5' flanking area of CSTB. Most normal alleles contain either two or three repeats, while rarer normal alleles that are highly unstable contain between 12 and 17 repeats. Mutant expanded alleles have been reported to contain between 30 and 80 copies and are also highly unstable, particularly via parental transmission. There is no apparent correlation between mutant repeat length and disease phenotype. While the repeat expansion is outside the CSTB transcriptional unit, it results in a marked decrease in CSTB expression, at least in certain cell types in vitro. CSTB homozygous knockout mice show some parallels to the phenotype of human EPM1 including myoclonic seizures, development of ataxia and neuropathological changes associated with cell loss via apoptosis. Loss of CSTB function due to mutations is consistent with the observed neurodegenerative pathology and phenotype, but the functional link to the epileptic phenotype of EPM1 remains largely unknown.
Copyright 2003 S. Karger AG, Basel