Diagnosis by whole exome sequencing of atypical infantile onset Alexander disease masquerading as a mitochondrial disorder

Daniella Nishri, Simon Edvardson, Dorit Lev, Esther Leshinsky-Silver, Liat Ben-Sira, Marco Henneke, Tally Lerman-Sagie, Lubov Blumkin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction There are many similarities, both clinical and radiological, between mitochondrial leukoencephalopathies and Alexander disease, an astrogliopathy. Clinically, both can manifest with a myriad of symptoms and signs, arising from the neonatal period to adulthood. Radiologically, both can demonstrate white matter changes, signal abnormalities of basal ganglia or thalami, brainstem abnormalities and contrast enhancement of white matter structures. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy may reveal elevation of lactate in the abnormal white matter in Alexander disease making the distinction even more challenging. Patient and Methods We present a child who was considered to have an infantile onset mitochondrial disorder due to a combination of neurological symptoms and signs (developmental regression, failure to thrive, episodic deterioration, abnormal eye movements, pyramidal and cerebellar signs), urinary excretion of 3-methyl-glutaconic acid and imaging findings (extensive white matter changes and cerebellar atrophy) with a normal head circumference. Whole exome sequence analysis was performed. Results The child was found to harbor the R416W mutation, one of the most prevalent mutations in the glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) gene that causes Alexander disease. Conclusions Alexander disease should be considered in the differential diagnosis of infantile leukoencephalopathy, even when no macrocephaly is present. Next generation sequencing is a useful aid in unraveling the molecular etiology of leukoencephalopathies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-501
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Paediatric Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Alexander disease
  • Lactic acid
  • Leukoencephalopathy
  • Mitochondrial disorders


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