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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Joubert Syndrome and related disorders

Francesco Brancati12, Bruno Dallapiccola3 and Enza Maria Valente14*

Author Affiliations

1 Mendel Laboratory, Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza Hospital, IRCCS, San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy

2 Department of Biomedical Sciences, Ce.S.I. Aging Research Center, Gabriele d'Annunzio University Foundation, Chieti, Italy

3 Bambino Gesù Children Hospital, IRCCS, Rome, Italy

4 Department of Medical and Surgical Pediatric Sciences, University of Messina, Messina, Italy

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Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases 2010, 5:20  doi:10.1186/1750-1172-5-20

Published: 8 July 2010

Abstract

Joubert syndrome (JS) and related disorders (JSRD) are a group of developmental delay/multiple congenital anomalies syndromes in which the obligatory hallmark is the molar tooth sign (MTS), a complex midbrain-hindbrain malformation visible on brain imaging, first recognized in JS. Estimates of the incidence of JSRD range between 1/80,000 and 1/100,000 live births, although these figures may represent an underestimate. The neurological features of JSRD include hypotonia, ataxia, developmental delay, intellectual disability, abnormal eye movements, and neonatal breathing dysregulation. These may be associated with multiorgan involvement, mainly retinal dystrophy, nephronophthisis, hepatic fibrosis and polydactyly, with both inter- and intra-familial variability. JSRD are classified in six phenotypic subgroups: Pure JS; JS with ocular defect; JS with renal defect; JS with oculorenal defects; JS with hepatic defect; JS with orofaciodigital defects. With the exception of rare X-linked recessive cases, JSRD follow autosomal recessive inheritance and are genetically heterogeneous. Ten causative genes have been identified to date, all encoding for proteins of the primary cilium or the centrosome, making JSRD part of an expanding group of diseases called "ciliopathies". Mutational analysis of causative genes is available in few laboratories worldwide on a diagnostic or research basis. Differential diagnosis must consider in particular the other ciliopathies (such as nephronophthisis and Senior-Loken syndrome), distinct cerebellar and brainstem congenital defects and disorders with cerebro-oculo-renal manifestations. Recurrence risk is 25% in most families, although X-linked inheritance should also be considered. The identification of the molecular defect in couples at risk allows early prenatal genetic testing, whereas fetal brain neuroimaging may remain uninformative until the end of the second trimester of pregnancy. Detection of the MTS should be followed by a diagnostic protocol to assess multiorgan involvement. Optimal management requires a multidisciplinary approach, with particular attention to respiratory and feeding problems in neonates and infants. Cognitive and behavioral assessments are also recommended to provide young patients with adequate neuropsychological support and rehabilitation. After the first months of life, global prognosis varies considerably among JSRD subgroups, depending on the extent and severity of organ involvement.