WWOX developmental and epileptic encephalopathy: Understanding the epileptology and the mortality risk

Epilepsia. 2023 May;64(5):1351-1367. doi: 10.1111/epi.17542. Epub 2023 Mar 11.


Objective: WWOX is an autosomal recessive cause of early infantile developmental and epileptic encephalopathy (WWOX-DEE), also known as WOREE (WWOX-related epileptic encephalopathy). We analyzed the epileptology and imaging features of WWOX-DEE, and investigated genotype-phenotype correlations, particularly with regard to survival.

Methods: We studied 13 patients from 12 families with WWOX-DEE. Information regarding seizure semiology, comorbidities, facial dysmorphisms, and disease outcome were collected. Electroencephalographic (EEG) and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data were analyzed. Pathogenic WWOX variants from our cohort and the literature were coded as either null or missense, allowing individuals to be classified into one of three genotype classes: (1) null/null, (2) null/missense, (3) missense/missense. Differences in survival outcome were estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method.

Results: All patients experienced multiple seizure types (median onset = 5 weeks, range = 1 day-10 months), the most frequent being focal (85%), epileptic spasms (77%), and tonic seizures (69%). Ictal EEG recordings in six of 13 patients showed tonic (n = 5), myoclonic (n = 2), epileptic spasms (n = 2), focal (n = 1), and migrating focal (n = 1) seizures. Interictal EEGs demonstrated slow background activity with multifocal discharges, predominantly over frontal or temporo-occipital regions. Eleven of 13 patients had a movement disorder, most frequently dystonia. Brain MRIs revealed severe frontotemporal, hippocampal, and optic atrophy, thin corpus callosum, and white matter signal abnormalities. Pathogenic variants were located throughout WWOX and comprised both missense and null changes including five copy number variants (four deletions, one duplication). Survival analyses showed that patients with two null variants are at higher mortality risk (p-value = .0085, log-rank test).

Significance: Biallelic WWOX pathogenic variants cause an early infantile developmental and epileptic encephalopathy syndrome. The most common seizure types are focal seizures and epileptic spasms. Mortality risk is associated with mutation type; patients with biallelic null WWOX pathogenic variants have significantly lower survival probability compared to those carrying at least one presumed hypomorphic missense pathogenic variant.

Keywords: WWOX; EIDEE; early infantile developmental and epileptic encephalopathy; epileptic spasms; genotype-phenotype correlation; survival probability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Diseases* / genetics
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epileptic Syndromes* / complications
  • Humans
  • Seizures / complications
  • Seizures / diagnostic imaging
  • Seizures / genetics
  • Spasm
  • Spasms, Infantile* / complications
  • Spasms, Infantile* / diagnostic imaging
  • Spasms, Infantile* / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism
  • WW Domain-Containing Oxidoreductase / genetics
  • WW Domain-Containing Oxidoreductase / metabolism


  • WWOX protein, human
  • WW Domain-Containing Oxidoreductase
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins