The Presentation and Natural History of Immunodeficiency Caused by Nuclear Factor kappaB Essential Modulator Mutation

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004 Apr;113(4):725-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2004.01.762.


Background: An increasing number of rare genetic defects are associated with immunodeficiency and impaired ability to activate gene transcription through nuclear factor (NF) kappaB. Hypomorphic mutations in the NFkappaB essential modulator (NEMO) impair NFkappaB function and are linked to both immunodeficiency and ectodermal dysplasia (ED), as well as susceptibility to atypical mycobacterial infections.

Objective: We sought to investigate the clinical and immunologic natural history of patients with NEMO mutation with immunodeficiency (NEMO-ID).

Methods: Patients with severe bacterial infection and ED or unexplained mycobacterial sensitivity were evaluated for NEMO mutation. Laboratory investigations and clinical data were retrospectively and prospectively accumulated and reviewed.

Results: We have given a diagnosis of NEMO-ID to 7 boys; 6 had ED, and 5 had gene mutations in the 10th exon of NEMO. Our resulting estimated incidence of NEMO-ID is 1:250,000 live male births. All patients had serious pyogenic bacterial illnesses early in life, and the median age of first infection was 8.1 months. Most boys had mycobacterial disease (median age, 84 months), and a minority had herpesviral infections. Initial immunologic assessments showed hypogammaglobulinemia (median IgG, 170 mg/dL) with variable IgM (median, 41 mg/dL) and IgA (median, 143 mg/dL) levels. Two patients had increased IgM levels, and 5 had increased IgA levels. All patients evaluated had normal lymphocyte subsets with impaired proliferative responses, specific antibody production, and natural killer cell function. Two patients died from complications of mycobacterial disease (ages 21 and 33 months).

Conclusion: NEMO-ID is a combined immunodeficiency with early susceptibility to pyogenic bacteria and later susceptibility to mycobacterial infection. Specific features of particular NEMO mutations in these patients provide insight into the role of this gene in immune function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agammaglobulinemia / etiology
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Child, Preschool
  • Herpesviridae Infections / etiology
  • Humans
  • I-kappa B Kinase
  • Immunoglobulin A / metabolism
  • Immunoglobulin M / metabolism
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / complications
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / genetics
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / immunology
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Mutation*
  • Mycobacterium Infections / etiology
  • Mycobacterium Infections / mortality
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics*


  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • CHUK protein, human
  • I-kappa B Kinase
  • IKBKB protein, human
  • IKBKE protein, human