Molecular, clinical and peripheral neuropathy study of Tunisian patients with ataxia with vitamin E deficiency

Brain. 2014 Feb;137(Pt 2):402-10. doi: 10.1093/brain/awt339. Epub 2013 Dec 25.


Ataxia with vitamin E deficiency is an autosomal recessive cerebellar ataxia caused by mutations in the α-tocopherol transfer protein coding gene localized on chromosome 8q, leading to lower levels of serum vitamin E. More than 91 patients diagnosed with ataxia with vitamin E deficiency have been reported worldwide. The majority of cases originated in the Mediterranean region, and the 744delA was the most common mutation among the 22 mutants previously described. We examined the clinical and molecular features of a large cohort of 132 Tunisian patients affected with ataxia with vitamin E deficiency. Of these patients, nerve conduction studies were performed on 45, and nerve biopsy was performed on 13. Serum vitamin E was dramatically reduced for 105 of the patients analysed. Molecular analysis revealed that 91.7% of the patients (n = 121) were homozygous for the 744delA mutation. Three other mutations were detected among the remaining patients (8.3%, n = 11) in the homozygous state. Two were previously reported (400C>T and 205-1G>T), and one was novel (553+1T>A). Age of onset was 13.2 ± 5.9 years, with extremes of 2 and 37 years. All described patients exhibited persistent progressive cerebellar ataxia with generally absent tendon reflexes. Deep sensory disturbances, pyramidal syndrome and skeletal deformities were frequent. Head tremor was present in 40% of the patients. Absence of neuropathy or mild peripheral neuropathy was noted in more than half of the cohort. This is the largest study of the genetic, clinical and peripheral neuropathic characteristics in patients with ataxia and vitamin E deficiency. The 744delA mutation represents the most common pathological mutation in Tunisia and worldwide, likely because of a Mediterranean founder effect. Our study led us to suggest that any patient displaying an autosomal recessive cerebellar ataxia phenotype with absent tendon reflexes and minor nerve abnormalities should first be screened for the 744delA mutation, even in the absence of a serum vitamin E measurement.

Keywords: AVED; TTPA; nerve conduction; neuropathy; tendon reflexes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ataxia / diagnosis*
  • Ataxia / epidemiology*
  • Ataxia / genetics
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Pedigree
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / genetics
  • Tunisia / epidemiology
  • Vitamin E Deficiency / diagnosis*
  • Vitamin E Deficiency / epidemiology*
  • Vitamin E Deficiency / genetics
  • Young Adult

Supplementary concepts

  • Ataxia with vitamin E deficiency