Reviewed June 2008
What is Unverricht-Lundborg disease?
Unverricht-Lundborg disease is a rare inherited form of epilepsy. Affected individuals usually begin showing signs and symptoms of the disorder between the ages of 6 and 15.
Unverricht-Lundborg disease is classified as a type of progressive myoclonus epilepsy. People with this disorder experience episodes of involuntary muscle jerking or twitching (myoclonus) that increase in frequency and severity over time. Episodes of myoclonus may be brought on by physical exertion, stress, light, or other stimuli. Within 5 to 10 years, the myoclonic episodes may become severe enough to interfere with walking and other everyday activities.
Affected individuals also usually have seizures involving loss of consciousness, muscle rigidity, and convulsions (tonic-clonic or grand mal seizures). Like the myoclonic episodes, these may increase in frequency over several years but may be controlled with treatment. After several years of progression, the frequency of seizures may stabilize or decrease.
Eventually people with Unverricht-Lundborg disease may develop problems with balance and coordination (ataxia), involuntary rhythmic shaking that worsens during movement (intentional tremor), difficulty speaking (dysarthria), depression, and a slow, mild decline in intellectual functioning.
People with Unverricht-Lundborg disease typically live into adulthood. Depending on the severity of the condition and a person's response to treatment, life expectancy may be normal.
How common is Unverricht-Lundborg disease?
Progressive myoclonus epilepsy is a rare condition. Unverricht-Lundborg disease is believed to be the most common cause of this type of epilepsy, but its worldwide prevalence is unknown. Unverricht-Lundborg disease occurs most frequently in Finland, where approximately 4 in 100,000 people are affected.
What genes are related to Unverricht-Lundborg disease?
Mutations in the CSTB gene cause Unverricht-Lundborg disease. The CSTB gene provides instructions for making a protein called cystatin B. This protein reduces the activity of enzymes called cathepsins. Cathepsins help break down certain proteins in the lysosomes (compartments in the cell that digest and recycle materials). While the specific function of cystatin B is unclear, it may help protect the cells' proteins from cathepsins that leak out of the lysosomes.
In almost all affected individuals, Unverricht-Lundborg disease is caused by an increase in size of the CSTB gene. One region of the CSTB gene has a particular repeating sequence of 12 DNA building blocks (nucleotides). This sequence is normally repeated two or three times within the gene and is called a dodecamer repeat. Most people with this disorder have more than 30 repeats of the dodecamer sequence in both copies of the CSTB gene. A small number of people with Unverricht-Lundborg disease carry other mutations.
The increased number of dodecamer repeats in the CSTB gene seems to interfere with the production of the cystatin B protein. Levels of cystatin B in affected individuals are only 5 to 10 percent of normal, and cathepsin levels are significantly increased. These changes are believed to cause the signs and symptoms of Unverricht-Lundborg disease, but it is unclear how a reduction in the amount of cystatin B leads to the features of this disorder.
Changes in this gene are associated with Unverricht-Lundborg disease.
How do people inherit Unverricht-Lundborg disease?
This condition is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern, which means both copies of the gene in each cell have mutations. The parents of an individual with an autosomal recessive condition each carry one copy of the mutated gene, but they typically do not show signs and symptoms of the condition.
Where can I find information about diagnosis or management of Unverricht-Lundborg disease?
These resources address the diagnosis or management of Unverricht-Lundborg disease and may include treatment providers.
- Gene Review: Unverricht-Lundborg Disease (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1142)
- Genetic Testing Registry: Unverricht-Lundborg syndrome (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gtr/conditions/C0751785)
You might also find information on the diagnosis or management of Unverricht-Lundborg disease in
Educational resources and Patient support.
General information about the diagnosis (http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/consult/diagnosis) and management (http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/consult/treatment) of genetic conditions is available in the Handbook.
Read more about genetic testing (http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/testing), particularly the difference between clinical tests and research tests (http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/testing/researchtesting).
To locate a healthcare provider, see How can I find a genetics professional in my area? (http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/consult/findingprofessional) in the Handbook.
Where can I find additional information about Unverricht-Lundborg disease?
You may find the following resources about Unverricht-Lundborg disease helpful. These materials are written for the general public.
- MedlinePlus - Health information (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/epilepsy.html)
Additional NIH Resources - National Institutes of Health
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Epilepsy Information Page (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/epilepsy/epilepsy.htm)
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Myoclonus Fact Sheet (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/myoclonus/detail_myoclonus.htm)
Educational resources - Information pages
- Disease InfoSearch: Progressive myoclonic epilepsy (http://www.diseaseinfosearch.org/Progressive+myoclonic+epilepsy/9622)
- Orphanet: Unverricht-Lundborg disease (http://www.orpha.net/consor/cgi-bin/OC_Exp.php?Lng=EN&Expert=308)
Patient support - For patients and families
- American Epilepsy Society (https://www.aesnet.org/)
- Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) (http://www.cureepilepsy.org/)
- National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD): Progressive Myoclonus Epilepsy (https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/progressive-myoclonus-epilepsy/)
You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for healthcare professionals and researchers.
- Gene Reviews - Clinical summary (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1142)
Genetic Testing Registry - Repository of genetic test information
- Genetic Testing Registry: Unverricht-Lundborg syndrome (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gtr/conditions/C0751785)
- ClinicalTrials.gov - Linking patients to medical research (https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?cond=%22Unverricht-Lundborg%20disease%22)
- PubMed - Recent literature (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=%28Unverricht-Lundborg%20Syndrome%5BMAJR%5D%29%20AND%20%28Unverricht-Lundborg%20disease%5BTIAB%5D%29%20AND%20english%5Bla%5D%20AND%20human%5Bmh%5D%20AND%20%22last%203600%20days%22%5Bdp%5D)
- OMIM - Genetic disorder catalog (http://omim.org/entry/254800)
What other names do people use for Unverricht-Lundborg disease?
- Baltic myoclonic epilepsy
- Baltic myoclonus
- Baltic myoclonus epilepsy
- Lundborg-Unverricht syndrome
- Mediterranean myoclonic epilepsy
- myoclonic epilepsy of Unverricht and Lundborg
- progressive myoclonic epilepsy
- progressive myoclonus epilepsy 1
- Unverricht-Lundborg syndrome
For more information about naming genetic conditions, see the Genetics Home Reference
Condition Naming Guidelines (http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/ConditionNameGuide)
How are genetic conditions and genes named? (http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/mutationsanddisorders/naming) in the Handbook.
What if I still have specific questions about Unverricht-Lundborg disease?
Ask the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/gard).
What glossary definitions help with understanding Unverricht-Lundborg disease?
autosomal recessive ;
myoclonus epilepsy ;
You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference
- Alakurtti K, Virtaneva K, Joensuu T, Palvimo JJ, Lehesjoki AE. Characterization of the cystatin B gene promoter harboring the dodecamer repeat expanded in progressive myoclonus epilepsy, EPM1. Gene. 2000 Jan 25;242(1-2):65-73. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10721698?dopt=Abstract)
- Alakurtti K, Weber E, Rinne R, Theil G, de Haan GJ, Lindhout D, Salmikangas P, Saukko P, Lahtinen U, Lehesjoki AE. Loss of lysosomal association of cystatin B proteins representing progressive myoclonus epilepsy, EPM1, mutations. Eur J Hum Genet. 2005 Feb;13(2):208-15. Erratum in: Eur J Hum Genet. 2005 Feb;13(2):264. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15483648?dopt=Abstract)
- Ceru S, Rabzelj S, Kopitar-Jerala N, Turk V, Zerovnik E. Protein aggregation as a possible cause for pathology in a subset of familial Unverricht-Lundborg disease. Med Hypotheses. 2005;64(5):955-9. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15780491?dopt=Abstract)
- Houseweart MK, Pennacchio LA, Vilaythong A, Peters C, Noebels JL, Myers RM. Cathepsin B but not cathepsins L or S contributes to the pathogenesis of Unverricht-Lundborg progressive myoclonus epilepsy (EPM1). J Neurobiol. 2003 Sep 15;56(4):315-27. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12918016?dopt=Abstract)
- Joensuu T, Kuronen M, Alakurtti K, Tegelberg S, Hakala P, Aalto A, Huopaniemi L, Aula N, Michellucci R, Eriksson K, Lehesjoki AE. Cystatin B: mutation detection, alternative splicing and expression in progressive myclonus epilepsy of Unverricht-Lundborg type (EPM1) patients. Eur J Hum Genet. 2007 Feb;15(2):185-93. Epub 2006 Sep 27. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17003839?dopt=Abstract)
- Lalioti MD, Antonarakis SE, Scott HS. The epilepsy, the protease inhibitor and the dodecamer: progressive myoclonus epilepsy, cystatin b and a 12-mer repeat expansion. Cytogenet Genome Res. 2003;100(1-4):213-23. Review. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14526183?dopt=Abstract)
- Lehesjoki AE. Molecular background of progressive myoclonus epilepsy. EMBO J. 2003 Jul 15;22(14):3473-8. Review. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12853462?dopt=Abstract)
- Magaudda A, Ferlazzo E, Nguyen VH, Genton P. Unverricht-Lundborg disease, a condition with self-limited progression: long-term follow-up of 20 patients. Epilepsia. 2006 May;47(5):860-6. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16686650?dopt=Abstract)
- Moulard B, Darcel F, Mignard D, Jeanpierre M, Genton P, Cartault F, Yaouanq J, Roubertie A, Biraben A, Buresi C, Malafosse A. FOunder effect in patients with Unverricht-Lundborg disease on reunion island. Epilepsia. 2003 Oct;44(10):1357-60. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14510831?dopt=Abstract)
- Moulard B, Genton P, Grid D, Jeanpierre M, Ouazzani R, Mrabet A, Morris M, LeGuern E, Dravet C, Mauguière F, Utermann B, Baldy-Moulinier M, Belaidi H, Bertran F, Biraben A, Ali Chérif A, Chkili T, Crespel A, Darcel F, Dulac O, Geny C, Humbert-Claude V, Kassiotis P, Buresi C, Malafosse A. Haplotype study of West European and North African Unverricht-Lundborg chromosomes: evidence for a few founder mutations. Hum Genet. 2002 Sep;111(3):255-62. Epub 2002 Jul 23. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12215838?dopt=Abstract)
- Shahwan A, Farrell M, Delanty N. Progressive myoclonic epilepsies: a review of genetic and therapeutic aspects. Lancet Neurol. 2005 Apr;4(4):239-48. Review. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15778103?dopt=Abstract)
The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for
professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about
a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified
See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? (http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/consult/findingprofessional) in the Handbook.