Hypomyelination caused by a novel homozygous pathogenic variant in FOLR1: complete clinical and radiological recovery with oral folinic acid therapy and review of the literature

Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2023 Jul 13;18(1):187. doi: 10.1186/s13023-023-02802-6.


Background: Neurodegeneration due to cerebral folate transport deficiency is a rare autosomal recessive disorder caused by biallelic pathogenic variants in FOLR1. Onset typically occurs in late infancy and is characterized by psychomotor regression, epilepsy, and a hypomyelinating leukodystrophy on magnetic resonance imaging. If left untreated, progressive neurodegeneration occurs. However, early treatment with folinic acid has been shown to stabilize or reverse neurological features. Approximately thirty patients have been described worldwide. Here, we report the first two cases with genetically proven cerebral folate transport deficiency from South-Eastern Europe, describe the effect of oral folinic acid therapy on clinical and neuroradiological features and review the literature.

Results: Two siblings presented in childhood with clinical and radiological findings consistent with a hypomyelinating leukodystrophy. Exome sequencing revealed a novel homozygous pathogenic variant in FOLR1 (c.465_466delinsTG; p.W156G), confirming the diagnosis of neurodegeneration due to cerebral folate transport deficiency. Folinic acid treatment was promptly initiated in both patients. The younger sibling was treated early in disease course at 2 years of age, and demonstrated complete recovery in clinical and MRI features. The older sibling, who was 8 years of age at the time of diagnosis and treatment, demonstrated partial but substantial improvements.

Conclusion: We present the first account in the literature that early treatment initiation with oral folinic acid alone can result in complete neurological recovery of both clinical and radiological abnormalities in neurodegeneration due to cerebral folate deficiency. Moreover, through the report of these patients along with review of the literature, we provide information about the natural history of the disease with comparison of treatment effects at different stages of disease progression. This report also reinforces the importance of universal access to genetic testing to ensure prompt diagnoses for treatable disorders.

Keywords: Cerebral folate deficiency; FOLR1; Folinic acid; Hypomyelination; Leukodystrophy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epilepsy* / genetics
  • Folate Receptor 1 / genetics
  • Folate Receptor 1 / therapeutic use
  • Folic Acid Deficiency* / diagnosis
  • Folic Acid Deficiency* / drug therapy
  • Folic Acid Deficiency* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Leucovorin / therapeutic use
  • Neuroaxonal Dystrophies*


  • Leucovorin
  • FOLR1 protein, human
  • Folate Receptor 1

Supplementary concepts

  • Neurodegeneration Due To Cerebral Folate Transport Deficiency