The neuronal ceroid-lipofuscinoses (NCL's, Batten disease) represent a group of severe neurodegenerative diseases, which mostly present in childhood. The phenotypes are similar and include visual loss, seizures, loss of motor and cognitive function, and early death. At autopsy, there is massive neuronal loss with characteristic storage in remaining neurons. Neurons appear to die because of increased rates of apoptosis and altered autophagy. Ten genes have been identified so far that result in an NCL (CLN1-10). The most common forms are CLN1, CLN2, and CLN3, which were previously known as Infantile, Late-Infantile, and Juvenile NCL's, respectively. CLN1 and CLN2 result from mutations in soluble lysosomal enzymes palmitoyl-protein thioesterase (PPT) and tripeptidyl peptidase 1 (TPP1), which can be measured in white blood cells for clinical diagnosis. Molecular diagnostic testing is routinely available for CLN1, CLN2, and CLN3. Sequencing of other NCL genes may be required to establish a diagnosis when the common forms are ruled out. The pathogenesis of NCL neuronal loss resulting from loss of function of any of the NCL gene products remains unknown and no treatment options are presently available.
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