An autosomal recessive disorder with posterior column ataxia and retinitis pigmentosa

We report an autosomal recessive form of ataxia that is not allelic to Friedreich’s disease in six individuals from a large kindred with family origins traced to a common founder of German-Swiss descent. The disorder begins during early childhood with a concentric contraction of the visual fields and proprioceptive loss. Eventually blindness, a severe sensory ataxia, achalasia, scoliosis, and inanition develop by third decade. Inversion recovery MRIs of the spinal cord in affected individuals demonstrate a hyperintense signal in the posterior columns. Finding the gene responsible for this disorder may aid in our understanding of the mechanisms that cause sensory neuronal degeneration.