Chamovaa T., Guergueltchevaa V., Gospodinova M. ... Tournev I.
Neuromuscular Disorders, volume 25, issue 9, pages 713-718
GNE myopathy is an autosomal-recessive disorder caused by mutations in the GNE gene, encoding the key enzyme in the sialic acid biosynthetic pathway, UDP-N-acetylglucosamine 2-epimerase/N-acetyl mannosamine kinase. We studied 50 Bulgarian Roma patients homozygous for p.I618T, an ancient founder mutation in the kinase domain of the GNE gene, dating before the Gypsy exodus from North West India. The clinical features in the Bulgarian GNE group can be described with disease onset mostly in the third decade, but in individual cases, onset was as early as 10 years of age. The majority of patients had foot drop as the first symptom, but three patients developed hand weakness first. Muscle weakness was early and severe for the tibialis anterior, and minimal or late for quadriceps femoris, and respiratory muscles were only subclinically affected even in the advanced stages of the disease. During a 15-year follow-up period, 32 patients became non-ambulant. The average period between disease onset and loss of ambulation was 10.34 ± 4.31 years, ranging from 3 to 20 years. Our analysis of affected sib pairs suggested a possible role of genetic modifying factors, accounting for significant variation in disease severity.