Recent advances in the molecular basis of Lafora's progressive myoclonus epilepsy

J Hum Genet. 2006;51(1):1-8. doi: 10.1007/s10038-005-0321-1. Epub 2005 Nov 26.


Lafora's disease (LD) is an autosomal recessive and fatal form of progressive myoclonus epilepsy with onset in late childhood or adolescence. LD is characterised by the presence of intracellular polyglucosan inclusions, called Lafora bodies, in tissues including the brain, liver and skin. Patients have progressive neurologic deterioration, leading to death within 10 years of onset. No preventive or curative treatment is available for LD. At least three genes underlie LD, of which two have been isolated and mutations characterised: EPM2A and NHLRC1. The EPM2A gene product laforin is a protein phosphatase while the NHLRC1 gene product malin is an E3 ubiquitin ligase that ubiquitinates and promotes the degradation of laforin. Analyses of the structure and function of these gene products suggest defects in post-translational modification of proteins as the common mechanism that leads to the formation of Lafora inclusion bodies, neurodegeneration and the epileptic phenotype of LD. In this review, we summarise the available information on the genetic basis of LD, and correlate these advances with the rapidly expanding information about the mechanisms of LD gained from studies on both cell biological and animal models. Finally, we also discuss a possible mechanism to explain the locus heterogeneity observed in LD.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Lafora Disease / genetics*
  • Lafora Disease / physiopathology
  • Mutation
  • Polymorphism, Genetic