Objective: The study was undertaken to identify a monogenic cause of early onset, generalized dystonia. Methods: Methods consisted of genome-wide linkage analysis, exome and Sanger sequencing, clinical neurological examination, brain magnetic resonance imaging, and protein expression studies in skin fibroblasts from patients. Results: We identified a heterozygous variant, c.388G>A, p.Gly130Arg, in the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 alpha kinase 2 (EIF2AK2) gene, segregating with early onset isolated generalized dystonia in 5 patients of a Taiwanese family. EIF2AK2 sequencing in 191 unrelated patients with unexplained dystonia yielded 2 unrelated Caucasian patients with an identical heterozygous c.388G>A, p.Gly130Arg variant, occurring de novo in one case, another patient carrying a different heterozygous variant, c.413G>C, p.Gly138Ala, and one last patient, born from consanguineous parents, carrying a third, homozygous variant c.95A>C, p.Asn32Thr. These 3 missense variants are absent from gnomAD, and are located in functional domains of the encoded protein. In 3 patients, additional neurological manifestations were present, including intellectual disability and spasticity. EIF2AK2 encodes a kinase (protein kinase R [PKR]) that phosphorylates eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 alpha (eIF2α), which orchestrates the cellular stress response. Our expression studies showed abnormally enhanced activation of the cellular stress response, monitored by PKR-mediated phosphorylation of eIF2α, in fibroblasts from patients with EIF2AK2 variants. Intriguingly, PKR can also be regulated by PRKRA (protein interferon-inducible double-stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase activator A), the product of another gene causing monogenic dystonia. Interpretation: We identified EIF2AK2 variants implicated in early onset generalized dystonia, which can be dominantly or recessively inherited, or occur de novo. Our findings provide direct evidence for a key role of a dysfunctional eIF2α pathway in the pathogenesis of dystonia. ANN NEUROL 2021;89:485–497.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology