Amish lethal microcephaly: a new metabolic disorder with severe congenital microcephaly and 2-ketoglutaric aciduria

A new metabolic disorder characterized by severe congenital microcephaly, death within the first year, and severe 2-ketoglutaric aciduria has been found among the Old-Order Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Amish lethal microcephaly segregates as an autosomal recessive disorder and has an unusually high incidence of at least 1 in 500 births. When the infants are well, the urine organic acid profiles show isolated, extreme elevations of 2-ketoglutaric acid. However, during otherwise simple viral illnesses, the infants often develop a metabolic acidosis, which may follow a lethal course. Cranial magnetic resonance imaging of a single patient showed a smooth, immature brain similar to that of a 20-week fetus except for a moderate degree of cerebellar vermal hypoplasia. Assay of 2-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase in cultured lymphoblasts of one patient showed normal activity. Amish lethal microcephaly maps to 17q25 and may be caused by a defect in a mitochondrial inner membrane protein functioning as a 2-ketoglutarate transporter.