Phelan-McDermid syndrome (PMS) is caused by haploinsufficiency of the SHANK3 gene on chromosome 22q13.33 and is characterized by intellectual disability, hypotonia, severe speech impairments, and autism spectrum disorder. Emerging evidence indicates that there are changes over time in the phenotype observed in individuals with PMS, including severe neuropsychiatric symptoms and loss of skills occurring in adolescence and adulthood. To gain further insight into these phenomena and to better understand the long-term course of the disorder, we conducted a systematic literature review and identified 56 PMS cases showing signs of behavioral and neurologic decompensation in adolescence or adulthood (30 females, 25 males, 1 gender unknown). Clinical presentations included features of bipolar disorder, catatonia, psychosis, and loss of skills, occurring at a mean age of 20 years. There were no apparent sex differences in the rates of these disorders except for catatonia, which appeared to be more frequent in females (13 females, 3 males). Reports of individuals with point mutations in SHANK3 exhibiting neuropsychiatric decompensation and loss of skills demonstrate that loss of one copy of SHANK3 is sufficient to cause these manifestations. In the majority of cases, no apparent cause could be identified; in others, symptoms appeared after acute events, such as infections, prolonged or particularly intense seizures, or changes in the individual's environment. Several individuals had a progressive neurological deterioration, including one with juvenile onset metachromatic leukodystrophy, a severe demyelinating disorder caused by recessive mutations in the ARSA gene in 22q13.33. These reports provide insights into treatment options that have proven helpful in some cases, and are reviewed herein. Our survey highlights how little is currently known about neuropsychiatric presentations and loss of skills in PMS and underscores the importance of studying the natural history in individuals with PMS, including both cross-sectional and long-term longitudinal analyses. Clearer delineation of these neuropsychiatric symptoms will contribute to their recognition and prompt management and will also help uncover the underlying biological mechanisms, potentially leading to improved interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number50
JournalMolecular Autism
Issue number1
StatePublished - 24 Dec 2019


  • 22q13 deletion syndrome
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Catatonia
  • Phelan-McDermid syndrome
  • Psychosis
  • Regression
  • SHANK3


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