Revising rapid-onset dystonia-parkinsonism: Broadening indications for ATP1A3 testing

Mov Disord. 2019 Oct;34(10):1528-1536. doi: 10.1002/mds.27801. Epub 2019 Jul 30.


Background and objectives: Rapid-onset dystonia-parkinsonism (RDP) is caused by mutations in the ATP1A3 gene, which codes for the α-3 subunit of the Na+ /K+ ATPase. It has been characterized by rapid-onset bulbar dysfunction, limb dystonia, bradykinesia, and a rostrocaudal spatial gradient of expression, usually after a physiologic trigger. We reexamined whether these features were in fact characteristic.

Methods: We characterized phenotypic variation within a cohort of 50 ATP1A3 mutation-positive individuals (carriers) and 44 mutation-negative family members (noncarriers). Potential participants were gathered through referral for clinical suspicion of RDP or alternating hemiplegia of childhood. Inclusion criteria were having a ATP1A3 mutation or being a family member of such an individual.

Results: We found RDP is underdiagnosed if only "characteristic" patients are tested. Rapid onset and bulbar predominance were not universally present in carriers. Among those with at least mild symptoms of dystonia, rostrocaudal severity gradient was rare (7%). Symptoms began focally but progressed to be generalized (51%) or multifocal (49%). Arm (41%) onset was most common. Arms and voice were typically most severely affected (48% and 44%, respectively). Triggers preceded onset in 77% of the participants. Rapid onset, dystonia, parkinsonism, bulbar symptoms, headaches, seizures, frontal impairment, and a history of mood disorder and a history of psychosis were more common in carriers. Approximately half of the proband mutations occurred de novo (56%).

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that patients should not be excluded from ATP1A3 testing because of slow onset, limb onset, absent family history, or onset in middle adulthood. RDP should be strongly considered in the differential for any bulbar dystonia. © 2019 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset*
  • Child
  • Dystonia / genetics
  • Female
  • Hemiplegia / genetics*
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Movement Disorders / genetics
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / genetics
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase / genetics*


  • ATP1A3 protein, human
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase

Supplementary concepts

  • Alternating hemiplegia of childhood