Spinocerebellar ataxias in infancy: Pathogenesis of potassium and calcium channels' diseases, clinical features and therapeutical approach
ABSTRACT In infancy, the autosomal dominant inherited ataxias are severe neurological diseases, due to inherited mutations of ion channels. The main forms are: episodic ataxia type 1 (EA1), episodic ataxia type 2 (EA2), spinocerebellar ataxia type 6 (SCA6). EA1 is due to a mutation in KCNA1, the gene encoding human Kv1.1 on chromosome 12p13, which contributes as a subunit to the formation of potassium channels in motor nerve terminals and in many central nervous system neurones. To date, there are fifteen different mutations, which affect potassium channel's properties and lead to phenotypic variability and to different responses to therapy. EA2 can result from mutations in the CACNA1A gene, encoding calcium channels on chromosome 19p13.1 and widely distributed throughout the central nervous system. To date, associated with EA2, in the CACNA1A gene thirty different mutations have been described, resulting in altered or truncated protein products and, as a consequence, in nonfunctional calcium channels. There is phenotypic variability, also inside the same family, without correlation genotype-phenotype. SCA6 is a progressive neurodegenerative disease due to mutations of the CACNA1A gene. CACNA1A is responsible for both EA2 and SCA6. Nevertheless, the pathogenesis of the two diseases is different: SCA6 is associated with small expansion of a CAGn repeat, while EA2 is due to point mutations. Clinically, SCA6 is characterized by a slowly progressive development and by an inverse correlation between the number of repeats and the severity of the disease.