Lafora disease: from genotype to phenotype

J Genet. 2018 Jul;97(3):611-624.


The progressive myoclonic epilepsy of Lafora or Lafora disease (LD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by recurrent seizures and cognitive deficits. With typical onset in the late childhood or early adolescence, the patients show progressive worsening of the disease symptoms, leading to death in about 10 years. It is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by the loss-of-function mutations in the EPM2A gene, coding for a protein phosphatase (laforin) or the NHLRC1 gene coding for an E3 ubiquitin ligase (malin). LD is characterized by the presence of abnormally branched water insoluble glycogen inclusions known as Lafora bodies in the neurons and other tissues, suggesting a role for laforin and malin in glycogen metabolic pathways. Mouse models of LD, developed by targeted disruption of the Epm2a or Nhlrc1 gene, recapitulated most of the symptoms and pathological features as seen in humans, and have offered insight into the pathomechanisms. Besides the formation of Lafora bodies in the neurons in the presymptomatic stage, the animal models have also demonstrated perturbations in the proteolytic pathways, such as ubiquitin proteasome system and autophagy, and inflammatory response. This review attempts to provide a comprehensive coverage on the genetic defects leading to the LD in humans, on the functional properties of the laforin and malin proteins, and on how defects in any one of these two proteins result in a clinically similar phenotype. We also discuss the disease pathologies as revealed by the studies on the animal models and, finally, on the progress with therapeutic attempts albeit in the animal models.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Genetic Heterogeneity
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Lafora Disease / genetics*
  • Lafora Disease / pathology
  • Lafora Disease / therapy
  • Phenotype