Myoclonus is characterized by sudden, brief involuntary movements and its presence is debilitating. We identified a family suffering from adult-onset, cortical myoclonus without associated seizures. We performed clinical, electrophysiological, and genetic studies to define this phenotype.
A large, four-generation family with history of myoclonus underwent careful questioning, examination, and electrophysiological testing. Thirty-five family members donated blood samples for genetic analysis, which included SNP mapping, microsatellite linkage, targeted massively parallel sequencing, and Sanger sequencing. In silico and in vitro experiments were performed to investigate functional significance of the mutation.
We identified 11 members of a Canadian Mennonite family suffering from adult-onset, slowly progressive, disabling, multifocal myoclonus. Somatosensory evoked potentials indicated a cortical origin of the myoclonus. There were no associated seizures. Some severely affected individuals developed signs of progressive cerebellar ataxia of variable severity late in the course of their illness. The phenotype was inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion. We demonstrated linkage to chromosome 16q21-22.1. We then sequenced all coding sequence in the critical region, identifying only a single co-segregating, novel, nonsynonymous mutation, which resides in the gene NOL3. Furthermore, this mutation was found to alter post-translational modification of NOL3 protein in vitro.
We propose that Familial Cortical Myoclonus (FCM) is a novel movement disorder that may be caused by mutation in NOL3. Further investigation of the role of NOL3 in neuronal physiology may shed light on neuronal membrane hyperexcitability and pathophysiology of myoclonus and related disorders.