Aicardi-Goutieres syndrome

Br Med Bull. 2009:89:183-201. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldn049. Epub 2009 Jan 7.


Introduction: Aicardi-Goutières syndrome (AGS) is an autosomal recessive encephalopathy characterized by acquired microcephaly, cerebral calcifications, leukodystrophy, cerebral atrophy and cerebrospinal fluid findings of chronic lymphocytosis and raised interferon-alpha (INF-alpha). The main extraneurological symptoms are chilblain-like skin lesions, usually on the fingers, toes and ears.

Sources of data: This review is based on a search of the published literature on AGS from 1984 onwards (particularly the most recent papers) and on knowledge and experience gained through the authors' work with the International Aicardi-Goutières Syndrome Association (IAGSA).

Areas of agreement: It is accepted that AGS can be mistaken for a congenital infection and that the diagnostic significance of its cardinal signs (raised INF-alpha levels, basal ganglia calcifications) is different in different stages of the disease. Currently, we know of four genes that, if mutated, can give rise to AGS, but at least one other gene is believed to exist. These genes are involved in the DNA damage response, a defect of which could provoke an inappropriate innate immune response, triggering increased secretion of INF-alpha, ultimately responsible for the main features of the disease.

Areas of controversy: The natural history of AGS has not yet been definitively described given the lack of extensive, long-term neuroradiological follow-up studies. Furthermore, it is not yet clearly understood how the innate immune system is activated, what triggers the onset of the disease or why it tends to 'burn out' after several months. Immunosuppressive therapy in the active stage of the disease does not seem to produce any real change in the clinical course, but more data are needed.

Growing points and areas timely for developing research: Current studies aim to clarify the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of AGS and to establish the exact pathway by which retained nucleic acids activate the immune system. This knowledge could allow the development of therapeutic strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Basal Ganglia Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Basal Ganglia Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Basal Ganglia Diseases / genetics
  • Calcinosis / diagnosis*
  • Calcinosis / genetics
  • Exodeoxyribonucleases
  • Humans
  • Phosphoproteins
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Radiography


  • Phosphoproteins
  • Proteins
  • Exodeoxyribonucleases
  • three prime repair exonuclease 1