A P102L point mutation in the prion protein gene (PRNP) usually causes Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker disease (GSS), which is a rare hereditary transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The clinical features include ataxia in 50s age group with subsequent dementia, spastic paraparesis and extrapyramidal signs. Many families have been reported from the Caucasian population, but only one from the Chinese. We hereby report a large Chinese family with P102L mutation of PRNP whose clinical manifestations at onset were intriguingly heterogeneous, either rapidly progressive dementia with scanty other neurological features or slowly progressive ataxia followed by cognitive impairment. The four-generation pedigree included eight patients with a mean age at onset of 36.9 ± 12.9 (mean ± SD) years. Mean disease duration to death in the four patients was 5.5 ± 1.7 (mean ± SD) years. Molecular analysis revealed a P102L mutation and M129 polymorphism in the PRNP gene in all affected individuals. TSE with P102L mutation of PRNP appears to have a remarkably variable phenotypic expressivity that may change with time and does not appear related to the codon 129 polymorphism.
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