Diagnosis by whole exome sequencing of atypical infantile onset Alexander disease masquerading as a mitochondrial disorder.
There are many similarities, both clinical and radiological, between mitochondrial leukoencephalopathies and Alexander disease, an astrogliopathy. Clinically, both can manifest with a myriad of symptoms and signs, arising from the neonatal period to adulthood. Radiologically, both can demonstrate white matter changes, signal abnormalities of basal ganglia or thalami, brainstem abnormalities and contrast enhancement of white matter structures. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy may reveal elevation of lactate in the abnormal white matter in Alexander disease making the distinction even more challenging.We present a child who was considered to have an infantile onset mitochondrial disorder due to a combination of neurological symptoms and signs (developmental regression, failure to thrive, episodic deterioration, abnormal eye movements, pyramidal and cerebellar signs), urinary excretion of 3-methyl-glutaconic acid and imaging findings (extensive white matter changes and cerebellar atrophy) with a normal head circumference. Whole exome sequence analysis was performed.The child was found to harbor the R416W mutation, one of the most prevalent mutations in the glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) gene that causes Alexander disease.Alexander disease should be considered in the differential diagnosis of infantile leukoencephalopathy, even when no macrocephaly is present. Next generation sequencing is a useful aid in unraveling the molecular etiology of leukoencephalopathies.