CAD mutations and uridine-responsive epileptic encephalopathy

Brain. 2017 Feb;140(2):279-286. doi: 10.1093/brain/aww300. Epub 2016 Dec 21.


Unexplained global developmental delay and epilepsy in childhood pose a major socioeconomic burden. Progress in defining the molecular bases does not often translate into effective treatment. Notable exceptions include certain inborn errors of metabolism amenable to dietary intervention. CAD encodes a multifunctional enzyme involved in de novo pyrimidine biosynthesis. Alternatively, pyrimidines can be recycled from uridine. Exome sequencing in three families identified biallelic CAD mutations in four children with global developmental delay, epileptic encephalopathy, and anaemia with anisopoikilocytosis. Two died aged 4 and 5 years after a neurodegenerative disease course. Supplementation of the two surviving children with oral uridine led to immediate cessation of seizures in both. A 4-year-old female, previously in a minimally conscious state, began to communicate and walk with assistance after 9 weeks of treatment. A 3-year-old female likewise showed developmental progress. Blood smears normalized and anaemia resolved. We establish CAD as a gene confidently implicated in this neurometabolic disorder, characterized by co-occurrence of global developmental delay, dyserythropoietic anaemia and seizures. While the natural disease course can be lethal in early childhood, our findings support the efficacy of uridine supplementation, rendering CAD deficiency a treatable neurometabolic disorder and therefore a potential condition for future (genetic) newborn screening.

Keywords: anaemia; anisopoikilocytosis; epilepsy; global developmental delay; uridine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / complications
  • Anemia / drug therapy
  • Anemia / genetics
  • Aspartate Carbamoyltransferase / genetics*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Carbamoyl-Phosphate Synthase (Glutamine-Hydrolyzing) / genetics*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Developmental Disabilities / complications
  • Developmental Disabilities / genetics
  • Dihydroorotase / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Spasms, Infantile / complications
  • Spasms, Infantile / diagnostic imaging
  • Spasms, Infantile / drug therapy*
  • Spasms, Infantile / genetics*
  • Uridine / therapeutic use*


  • CAD trifunctional enzyme
  • Aspartate Carbamoyltransferase
  • Dihydroorotase
  • Carbamoyl-Phosphate Synthase (Glutamine-Hydrolyzing)
  • Uridine