Kennedy disease (X-linked recessive bulbospinal neuronopathy): A comprehensive review from pathophysiology to therapy

G. Querin, G. Sorarù, P. F. Pradat

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Kennedy's disease, also known as spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA), is a rare, adult-onset, X-linked recessive neuromuscular disease caused by expansion of a CAG repeat sequence in exon 1 of the androgen receptor gene (AR) encoding a polyglutamine (polyQ) tract. The polyQ-expanded AR accumulates in nuclei, and initiates degeneration and loss of motor neurons and dorsal root ganglia. While the disease has long been considered a pure lower motor neuron disease, recently, the presence of major hyper-creatine-kinase (CK)-emia and myopathic alterations on muscle biopsy has suggested the presence of a primary myopathy underlying a wide range of clinical manifestations. The disease, which affects male adults, is characterized by muscle weakness and atrophy localized proximally in the limbs, and bulbar involvement. Sensory disturbances are associated with the motor phenotype, but may be subclinical. The most frequent systemic symptom is gynecomastia related to androgen insensitivity, but other abnormalities, such as heart rhythm and urinary disturbances, have also been reported. The course of the disease is slowly progressive with normal life expectancy. The diagnosis of SBMA is based on genetic testing, with 38 CAG repeats taken as pathogenic. Despite several therapeutic attempts made in mouse models, no effective disease-modifying therapy is yet available, although symptomatic therapy is beneficial for the management of the weakness, fatigue and bulbar symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-337
Number of pages12
JournalRevue Neurologique
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 May 2017


  • Clinical trials
  • Diagnosis
  • Kennedy's disease
  • Muscular involvement
  • SBMA
  • Systemic symptoms


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