, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 217–228 | Cite as

DNA repair abnormalities leading to ataxia: shared neurological phenotypes and risk factors

  • Edward C. GilmoreEmail author
Review article


Since identification of mutations in the ATM gene leading to ataxia-telangiectasia, enormous efforts have been devoted to discovering the roles this protein plays in DNA repair as well as other cellular functions. Even before the identification of ATM mutations, it was clear that other diseases with different genomic loci had very similar neurological symptoms. There has been significant progress in understanding why cancer and immunodeficiency occur in ataxia-telangiectasia even though many details remain to be determined, but the field is no closer to determining why the nervous system requires ATM and other DNA repair genes. Even though rodent disease models have similar DNA repair abnormalities as the human diseases, they have no consistent, robust neuropathological phenotype making it difficult to understand the neurological underpinnings of disease. Therefore, it may be useful to reassess the neurological and neuropathological characteristics of ataxia-telangiectasia in human patients to look for potential commonalities in DNA repair diseases that result in ataxia. In doing so, it is clear that ataxia-telangiectasia and similar diseases share neurological features other than merely ataxia, such as length-dependent motor and sensory neuropathies, and that the neuroanatomical localization for these symptoms is understood. Cells affected in ataxia-telangiectasia and similar diseases are some of the largest single nucleated cells in the body. In addition, a subset of these diseases also has extrapyramidal movements and oculomotor apraxia. These neurological and neuropathological similarities may indicate a common DNA repair related pathogenesis with very large cell size as a critical risk factor.


DNA repair Ataxia Neurodegeneration Ataxia-telangiectasia Neuropathy 


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Child Neurology, Department of PediatricsCase Western Reserve University—Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital-University HospitalsClevelandUSA

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