Genome sequencing in a case of Niemann-Pick type C

Cold Spring Harb Mol Case Stud. 2016 Nov;2(6):a001222. doi: 10.1101/mcs.a001222.


Adult-onset Niemann-Pick disease type C (NPC) is an infrequent presentation of a rare neurovisceral lysosomal lipid storage disorder caused by autosomal recessive mutations in NPC1 (∼95%) or NPC2 (∼5%). Our patient was diagnosed at age 33 when he presented with a 10-yr history of difficulties in judgment, concentration, speech, and coordination. A history of transient neonatal jaundice and splenomegaly with bone marrow biopsy suggesting a lipid storage disorder pointed to NPC; biochemical ("variant" level cholesterol esterification) and ultrastructural studies in adulthood confirmed the diagnosis. Genetic testing revealed two different missense mutations in the NPC1 gene-V950M and N1156S. Symptoms progressed over >20 yr to severe ataxia and spasticity, dementia, and dysphagia with aspiration leading to death. Brain autopsy revealed mild atrophy of the cerebrum and cerebellum. Microscopic examination showed diffuse gray matter deposition of balloon neurons, mild white matter loss, extensive cerebellar Purkinje cell loss with numerous "empty baskets," and neurofibrillary tangles predominantly in the hippocampal formation and transentorhinal cortex. We performed whole-genome sequencing to examine whether the patient harbored variants outside of the NPC1 locus that could have contributed to his late-onset phenotype. We focused analysis on genetic modifiers in pathways related to lipid metabolism, longevity, and neurodegenerative disease. We identified no rare coding variants in any of the pathways examined nor was the patient enriched for genome-wide association study (GWAS) single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with longevity or altered lipid metabolism. In light of these findings, this case provides support for the V950M variant being sufficient for adult-onset NPC disease.

Keywords: atrophy/degeneration affecting the cerebrum; central nervous system degeneration; falls; hepatosplenomegaly; neurodegeneration; neuronal loss in central nervous system; progressive encephalopathy; progressive forgetfulness; progressive language deterioration; progressive psychomotor deterioration; slowed slurred speech; social and occupational deterioration.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics*
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Dementia / genetics
  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / genetics
  • Neurofibrillary Tangles / metabolism
  • Niemann-Pick C1 Protein
  • Niemann-Pick Disease, Type C / genetics*
  • Niemann-Pick Diseases / genetics
  • Whole Genome Sequencing / methods


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • NPC1 protein, human
  • Niemann-Pick C1 Protein