Pathophysiology of motor dysfunction in a childhood motor neuron disease caused by mutations in the riboflavin transporter.

Research paper by Manoj P MP Menezes, Michelle A MA Farrar, Richard R Webster, Jayne J Antony, Katherine K O'Brien, Robert R Ouvrier, Matthew C MC Kiernan, Joshua J Burns, Steve S Vucic

Indexed on: 21 Jun '15Published on: 21 Jun '15Published in: Clinical Neurophysiology


Brown-Vialetto-Van Laere (BVVL) syndrome is a progressive motor and sensory neuronopathy secondary to mutations in SLC52A2 encoding the riboflavin transporter type 2 (RFVT2). The phenotype is characterized by early childhood onset hearing loss and sensory ataxia followed by progressive upper limb weakness, optic atrophy, bulbar weakness and respiratory failure. To gain further insight into disease pathophysiology and response to riboflavin supplementation, the present study investigated whether axonal ion channel or membrane abnormalities were a feature of BVVL.Axonal excitability studies and clinical assessments were prospectively undertaken on six patients with BVVL secondary to riboflavin transporter deficiency type 2 (age range 10-21 years) at baseline and after 12 months of riboflavin (1000 mg daily) therapy.At baseline, depolarizing and hyperpolarizing threshold electrotonus was 'fanned out' and superexcitability was increased, while the resting current-threshold gradient and refractoriness were significantly reduced in BVVL patients when compared to controls. Mathematical modeling suggested that functional alterations of myelin underlay these findings with an increase in myelin permeability. Riboflavin therapy resulted in partial normalization of the axonal excitability findings, paralleled by maintenance of muscle strength.The present study established that abnormalities in myelin permeability at the paranode was a feature of BVVL and were partially normalized with riboflavin therapy.This study reveals a novel pathophysiological process for motor nerve dysfunction in BVVL. It also indicates that nerve excitability studies may be further developed in larger cohorts as a potential biomarker to identify treatment response for BVVL patients.