Action myoclonus-renal failure syndrome: Characterization of a unique cerebro-renal disorder

Aman Preet Badhwar, Samuel F. Berkovic, John P. Dowling, Michael Gonzales, Sridar Narayanan, Amy Brodtmann, Leon Berzen, John Caviness, Claudia Trenkwalder, Juliane Winkelmann, Jean Rivest, Mari Lambert, Otto Hernandez-Cossio, Stirling Carpenter, Frederick Andermann, Eva Andermann

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Action myoclonus-renal failure syndrome (AMRF) is a distinctive form of progressive myoclonus epilepsy associated with renal dysfunction. The syndrome was not recognized prior to the advent of dialysis and renal transplantation because of its rapidly fatal course if renal failure is untreated. The first and only description of AMRF was in four French Canadian patients in three families (Andermann et al., 1986). We now describe 15 individuals with AMRF from five countries, including a follow- up of the four French Canadian patients, allowing a more complete characterization of this disease. Our 15 patients with AMRF belong to nine different families. Segregation analyses were compatible with autosomal recessive inheritance. In addition, our findings show that AMRF can present with either renal or neurological features. Tremor (onset 17-26 years, mean 19.8 years, median 19 years) and progressively disabling action myoclonus (onset 14-29 years, mean 21.7 years, median 21 years), with infrequent generalized seizures (onset 20- 28 years, mean 22.7 years, median 22 years) and cerebellar features are characteristic. Proteinuria, detected between ages 9 and 30 years in all cases, progressed to renal failure in 12 out of 15 patients within 0-8 years after proteinuria detection. Brain autopsy in two patients revealed extraneuronal pigment accumulation. Renal biopsies showed collapsing glomerulopathy, a severe variant of focal glomerulosclerosis. This study extends the AMRF phenotype, and demonstrates a more extensive ethnic and geographic distribution of a syndrome originally believed to be confined to individuals of French Canadian ancestry. The independent progression of neurological and renal disorders in AMRF suggests a unitary molecular lesion with pleiotropic effects. Our results demonstrate that the renal lesion in AMRF is a recessive form of collapsing glomerulopathy. Genes identified for focal segmental glomerulosclerosis and involved with the function of the glomerular basement membrane and related proteins are thus good candidates. Treatment can improve quality of life and extend the lifespan of these patients. Dialysis and renal transplantation are effective for the renal but not the neurological features, which continue to progress even in the presence of normalized renal function; the latter can be managed with anti-myoclonic and anti-epileptic drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2173-2182
Number of pages10
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Action myoclonus
  • Autosomal recessive inheritance
  • Cerebro-renal disorder
  • Progressive myoclonus epilepsy
  • Renal failure

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