BACKGROUND: Hyperornithinemia-hyperammonemia-homocitrullinuria (HHH) syndrome is a rare disorder of urea cycle characterized by progressive pyramidal and cerebellar dysfunction, whose pathophysiology is not yet fully understood. Here we describe the spectrum of the long fibers involvement in HHH syndrome, attempting a correlation between clinical, electrophysiological and neuro-radiological data.
METHODS: Nine HHH patients were longitudinally evaluated by clinical examination, neurophysiological assessment including motor (MEPs), somato-sensory evoked potentials (PESS) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV), brain and spinal cord MRI RESULTS: All patients had pyramidal dysfunction and 3/9 an overt spastic paraplegia. Mild to moderate cerebellar signs were found in 7/9, intellectual disability in 8/9. At lower limbs, MEPs resulted abnormal in 7/8 patients and PESS in 2/8; peripheral sensory-motor neuropathy was found in 1/9. MRI documented atrophic changes in supra-tentorial brain regions in 6/9 patients, cerebellum in 6/9, spinal cord in 3/7.
CONCLUSIONS: A predominant corticospinal dysfunction is evident in HHH syndrome, along with milder cerebellar signs, intellectual disability of variable degree and rare peripheral neuropathy. Phenotypical similarities with other disorders affecting the urea cycle (argininemia and pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthetase deficiency) suggest possible common mechanisms contributing in the maintenance of the corticospinal tract integrity. HHH syndrome phenotype largely overlaps with complex Hereditary Spastic Paraplegias (HSPs), in the list of which it should be included, emphasizing the importance to screen all the unsolved cases of HSPs for metabolic biomarkers.