The spectrum of neurodevelopmental, neuromuscular and neurodegenerative disorders due to defective autophagy

Autophagy. 2022 Mar;18(3):496-517. doi: 10.1080/15548627.2021.1943177. Epub 2021 Aug 19.


Primary dysfunction of autophagy due to Mendelian defects affecting core components of the autophagy machinery or closely related proteins have recently emerged as an important cause of genetic disease. This novel group of human disorders may present throughout life and comprises severe early-onset neurodevelopmental and more common adult-onset neurodegenerative disorders. Early-onset (or congenital) disorders of autophagy often share a recognizable "clinical signature," including variable combinations of neurological, neuromuscular and multisystem manifestations. Structural CNS abnormalities, cerebellar involvement, spasticity and peripheral nerve pathology are prominent neurological features, indicating a specific vulnerability of certain neuronal populations to autophagic disturbance. A typically biphasic disease course of late-onset neurodegeneration occurring on the background of a neurodevelopmental disorder further supports a role of autophagy in both neuronal development and maintenance. Additionally, an associated myopathy has been characterized in several conditions. The differential diagnosis comprises a wide range of other multisystem disorders, including mitochondrial, glycogen and lysosomal storage disorders, as well as ciliopathies, glycosylation and vesicular trafficking defects. The clinical overlap between the congenital disorders of autophagy and these conditions reflects the multiple roles of the proteins and/or emerging molecular connections between the pathways implicated and suggests an exciting area for future research. Therapy development for congenital disorders of autophagy is still in its infancy but may result in the identification of molecules that target autophagy more specifically than currently available compounds. The close connection with adult-onset neurodegenerative disorders highlights the relevance of research into rare early-onset neurodevelopmental conditions for much more common, age-related human diseases.Abbreviations: AC: anterior commissure; AD: Alzheimer disease; ALR: autophagic lysosomal reformation; ALS: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; AMBRA1: autophagy and beclin 1 regulator 1; AMPK: AMP-activated protein kinase; ASD: autism spectrum disorder; ATG: autophagy related; BIN1: bridging integrator 1; BPAN: beta-propeller protein associated neurodegeneration; CC: corpus callosum; CHMP2B: charged multivesicular body protein 2B; CHS: Chediak-Higashi syndrome; CMA: chaperone-mediated autophagy; CMT: Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease; CNM: centronuclear myopathy; CNS: central nervous system; DNM2: dynamin 2; DPR: dipeptide repeat protein; DVL3: disheveled segment polarity protein 3; EPG5: ectopic P-granules autophagy protein 5 homolog; ER: endoplasmic reticulum; ESCRT: homotypic fusion and protein sorting complex; FIG4: FIG4 phosphoinositide 5-phosphatase; FTD: frontotemporal dementia; GBA: glucocerebrosidase; GD: Gaucher disease; GRN: progranulin; GSD: glycogen storage disorder; HC: hippocampal commissure; HD: Huntington disease; HOPS: homotypic fusion and protein sorting complex; HSPP: hereditary spastic paraparesis; LAMP2A: lysosomal associated membrane protein 2A; MEAX: X-linked myopathy with excessive autophagy; mHTT: mutant huntingtin; MSS: Marinesco-Sjoegren syndrome; MTM1: myotubularin 1; MTOR: mechanistic target of rapamycin kinase; NBIA: neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation; NCL: neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis; NPC1: Niemann-Pick disease type 1; PD: Parkinson disease; PtdIns3P: phosphatidylinositol-3-phosphate; RAB3GAP1: RAB3 GTPase activating protein catalytic subunit 1; RAB3GAP2: RAB3 GTPase activating non-catalytic protein subunit 2; RB1: RB1-inducible coiled-coil protein 1; RHEB: ras homolog, mTORC1 binding; SCAR20: SNX14-related ataxia; SENDA: static encephalopathy of childhood with neurodegeneration in adulthood; SNX14: sorting nexin 14; SPG11: SPG11 vesicle trafficking associated, spatacsin; SQSTM1: sequestosome 1; TBC1D20: TBC1 domain family member 20; TECPR2: tectonin beta-propeller repeat containing 2; TSC1: TSC complex subunit 1; TSC2: TSC complex subunit 2; UBQLN2: ubiquilin 2; VCP: valosin-containing protein; VMA21: vacuolar ATPase assembly factor VMA21; WDFY3/ALFY: WD repeat and FYVE domain containing protein 3; WDR45: WD repeat domain 45; WDR47: WD repeat domain 47; WMS: Warburg Micro syndrome; XLMTM: X-linked myotubular myopathy; ZFYVE26: zinc finger FYVE-type containing 26.

Keywords: autophagy; cellular trafficking; neurodegenerative disorders; congenital disorders of autophagy; neurodevelopmental disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / metabolism
  • Autophagy / genetics
  • Autophagy-Related Proteins / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Flavoproteins / metabolism
  • Frontotemporal Dementia* / metabolism
  • Glycogen / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lysosomes / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / genetics
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / metabolism
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Vacuolar Proton-Translocating ATPases
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • rab3 GTP-Binding Proteins


  • AMBRA1 protein, human
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Autophagy-Related Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • EPG5 protein, human
  • Flavoproteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Proteins
  • SPG11 protein, human
  • TECPR2 protein, human
  • UBQLN2 protein, human
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • WDR45 protein, human
  • Glycogen
  • FIG4 protein, human
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases
  • VMA21 protein, human
  • Vacuolar Proton-Translocating ATPases
  • RAB3GAP1 protein, human
  • rab3 GTP-Binding Proteins