Handb Clin Neurol. 2013:113:1707-8. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-59565-2.00039-3.


The gangliosidoses comprise a family of lysosomal storage diseases characterized by the accumulation of complex glycosphingolipids in the nervous system and other tissues, secondary to the deficient activity of lysosomal hydrolases or their associated activator proteins. GM1 and GM2 gangliosidosis are associated with deficiency of β-galactosidase and β-hexosaminidase respectively. All gangliosidoses are characterized by progressive neurodegeneration, the severity of which is proportional to the residual enzyme activity. The GM1 gangliosidoses are characterized by dysostosis, organomegaly and coarsening in their most severe forms, whereas children with classic infantile GM2 gangliosidosis (Tay-Sachs disease) are usually spared systemic involvement, except in the case of the Sandhoff variant, in which organomegaly may occur. Cherry-red macular spots occur in the early onset forms of the gangliosidoses, but are less frequently seen in the less severe, later onset phenotypes. Macrocephaly, an exaggerated startle response, cognitive decline, seizures, ataxia, and progressive muscular atrophy may occur in different forms of gangliosidosis. The diagnosis is made by assay of enzyme activity, and can be confirmed by mutation analysis. Carrier screening for Tay-Sachs disease has been remarkably successful in reducing the incidence of this disease in the at-risk Ashkenazi population. There are no proven disease-modifying therapies for the gangliosidoses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Disease Management
  • Gangliosidoses / diagnosis*
  • Gangliosidoses / genetics
  • Gangliosidoses / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mutation