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McLeod syndrome

McLeod syndrome (or McLeod phenomenon) is a genetic disorder that may affect the blood, brain, peripheral nerves, muscle and heart. It is caused by a variety of recessively-inherited mutations in the XK gene on the X chromosome. The gene is responsible for producing a specific protein (Kell antigen) on the red blood cell surface.


Clinical Features

Patients usually begin to notice symptoms in their 50s and the course is usually slowly progressive. Common features include peripheral neuropathy, cardiomyopathy and hemolytic anemia. Other features include limb chorea, facial tics, other oral movements (lip and tongue biting), seizures, a late-onset dementia and behavioral changes.

Laboratory Features

McLeod syndrome is one of three disorders in which acanthocytes may be found on the peripheral blood smear. Blood evaluation may show signs of hemolytic anemia. Elevated creatine kinase can be seen with myopathy in McLeod syndrome.

Radiologic and Pathologic Features

MRI shows increased T2 signal in the lateral putamen with caudate atrophy and secondary lateral ventricular dilation. Necropsy shows loss of neurons and gliosis in the caudate and globus pallidum. Similar changes may also be seen in the thalamus, substantia nigra and putamen. The cerebellum and cerebral cortex are generally spared.


McLeod syndrome was discovered in 1961 and, as with the Kell antigen system, was named after the first patient in which it was found: a Harvard dental student Hugh McLeod, whose red blood cells were observed to be hemolysed during blood donation,[1] and his red cells were found to be acanthocytic (spiky) under the microscope.


The McLeod phenotype is a recessive mutation of the Kell blood group system. The McLeod gene encodes the XK protein, which is located on the X chromosome, and has the structural characteristics of a membrane transport protein but an unknown function. Absence of the XK protein is an X-linked disease. [2] Mutational variants result in McLeod syndrome either with or without neuroacanthocytosis: the gene on the X chromosome for McLeod syndrome is physically close to the gene for chronic granulomatous disease. As a result, individuals with one disease may have both. [3]

Epidemiology and disease associations

McLeod syndrome is present in 0.5 to 1 per 100,000 of the population. McLeod males have variable acanthocytosis due to a defect in the inner leaflet bilayer of the red blood cell, as well as mild hemolysis. McLeod females have only occasional acanthocytes and very mild hemolysis; the lesser severity is thought to be due to X chromosome inactivation via the Lyon effect. Some individuals with McLeod phenotype develop myopathy, neuropathy or psychiatric symptoms, producing a syndrome that may mimic chorea.[4][5]

McLeod syndrome can cause an increase in the enzymes creatine kinase (CK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) found in routine blood screening. [6] [7]


There is no cure for McLeod syndrome, but treatment is supportive depending on symptoms. Medication may assist management of epilepsy, cardiac and psychiatric features, although patients may respond poorly to treatment for chorea.


8. Bradley et al. Neurology in Clinical Practice. The Neurological Disorders. 4th edition. Volume II.

  1. ^ Allen FH Jr, Krabbe SM, Corcoran PA. A new phenotype (McLeod) in the Kell blood-group system. Vox Sang. 1961 Sep;6:555-60. PMID 13477267
  2. ^ Ho MF, Monaco AP, Blonden LA, van Ommen GJ, Affara NA, Ferguson-Smith MA, Lehrach H. Fine mapping of the McLeod locus (XK) to a 150-380-kb region in Xp21. Am J Hum Genet. 1992 Feb;50(2):317-30. PMID 1734714
  3. ^ Marsh WL, Oyen R, Nichols ME, Allen FH Jr. Chronic granulomatous disease and the Kell blood groups. Br J Haematol. 1975 Feb;29(2):247-62. PMID 1191546
  4. ^ Danek A, Rubio JP, Rampoldi L, Ho M, Dobson-Stone C, Tison F, Symmans WA, Oechsner M, Kalckreuth W, Watt JM, Corbett AJ, Hamdalla HH, Marshall AG, Sutton I, Dotti MT, Malandrini A, Walker RH, Daniels G, Monaco AP. McLeod neuroacanthocytosis: genotype and phenotype. Ann Neurol. 2001 Dec;50(6):755-64. PMID 11761473
  5. ^ Malandrini A, Fabrizi GM, Truschi F, Di Pietro G, Moschini F, Bartalucci P, Berti G, Salvadori C, Bucalossi A, Guazzi G. Atypical McLeod syndrome manifested as X-linked chorea-acanthocytosis, neuromyopathy and dilated cardiomyopathy: report of a family. J Neurol Sci. 1994 Jun;124(1):89-94. PMID 7931427
  6. ^ Oechsner M, G. Winkler G, A. Danek A, McLeod neuroacanthocytosis: An underdiagnosed syndrome? International communication forum in human molecular genetics Sep 6 1995 [1]
  7. ^ Neuromuscular Disease Center Dilated cardiomyopathies ± Myopathy
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "McLeod_syndrome". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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