Neuropathology of leukoencephalopathy with brainstem and spinal cord involvement and high lactate caused by a homozygous mutation of DARS2

Brain Dev. 2013 Apr;35(4):312-6. doi: 10.1016/j.braindev.2012.05.007. Epub 2012 Jun 5.


We diagnosed three siblings from consanguineous east Asian parents with leukoencephalopathy with brainstem and spinal cord involvement and high lactate (LBSL) from characteristic MRI, MRS findings and a homozygous mutation in the DARS2 gene. The neurological symptoms of the three patients consisted of psychomotor developmental delay, cerebellar ataxia since infancy, spasticity in the initial phase and peripheral neuropathy in later stages. Their mental development was delayed, but did not deteriorate. MRI signal abnormalities included the same abnormalities reported previously but tended to be more extensive. Signal abnormalities in the cerebral and cerebellar white matter were homogeneous and confluent from early stages. In addition, other tract such as the central tegmental tract was involved. Furthermore, an atrophic change in the cerebral white matter was observed on follow-up in one case. Two of the patients were autopsied and neuropathological findings revealed characteristic vacuolar changes in the white matter of the cerebrum, cerebellum and the nerve tracts of the brain stem and spinal cord. The central myelin sheath showed intralamellar splitting by electron microscopy. These findings were consistent to a spongy degeneration in the diffuse white matter of the brain, or spongiform leukoencephalopathy. In addition, peripheral nerves showed both axonal degeneration and abnormal myelin structures. We discussed the relationship between deficits in mitochondrial aspartyl-tRNA synthetase activity and the neuropathology observed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aspartate-tRNA Ligase / genetics*
  • Brain Stem / pathology*
  • Cerebellum / pathology
  • Cerebellum / ultrastructure
  • Child
  • Consanguinity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism*
  • Leukoencephalopathies* / genetics
  • Leukoencephalopathies* / metabolism
  • Leukoencephalopathies* / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Siblings
  • Spinal Cord / pathology*
  • Sural Nerve / pathology
  • Sural Nerve / ultrastructure
  • Young Adult


  • Lactic Acid
  • Aspartate-tRNA Ligase
  • DARS2 protein, human