Recently, mutations in the TUBB4A gene have been found to underlie hypomyelination with atrophy of the basal ganglia and cerebellum (H-ABC) syndrome, a rare neurodegenerative disorder of infancy and childhood. TUBB4A mutations also have been described as causative of DYT4 ("hereditary whispering dysphonia"). However, in DYT4, brain imaging has been reported to be normal and, therefore, H-ABC syndrome and DYT4 have been construed to be different disorders, despite some phenotypic overlap. Hence, the question of whether these disorders reflect variable expressivity or pleiotropy of TUBB4A mutations has been raised. We report four unrelated patients with imaging findings either partially or totally consistent with H-ABC syndrome, who were found to have TUBB4A mutations. All four subjects had a relatively homogenous phenotype characterized by severe generalized dystonia with superimposed pyramidal and cerebellar signs, and also bulbar involvement leading to complete aphonia and swallowing difficulties, even though one of the cases had an intermediate phenotype between H-ABC syndrome and DYT4. Genetic analysis of the TUBB4A gene showed one previously described and two novel mutations (c.941C>T; p.Ala314Val and c.900G>T; p.Met300Ile) in the exon 4 of the gene. While expanding the genetic spectrum of H-ABC syndrome, we confirm its radiological heterogeneity and demonstrate that phenotypic overlap with DYT4. Moreover, reappraisal of previously reported cases would also argue against pleiotropy of TUBB4A mutations. We therefore suggest that H-ABC and DYT4 belong to a continuous phenotypic spectrum associated with TUBB4A mutations.
Keywords: DYT4; TUBB4A; beta-tubulin; hypomyelination with atrophy of basal ganglia and cerebellum; mutations; whispering dystonia.
© 2014 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.