Mutations in the PANK2 gene cause pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration.
The PANK2 gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called pantothenate kinase 2. This enzyme is active in mitochondria, the energy-producing centers within cells, where it plays a critical role in the formation of a molecule called coenzyme A. Found in all living cells, coenzyme A is essential for the body's production of energy from carbohydrates, fats, and some protein building blocks (amino acids).
Mutations in the PANK2 gene likely result in the production of an abnormal version of pantothenate kinase 2 or prevent cells from making any of this enzyme. A lack of functional pantothenate kinase 2 disrupts the production of coenzyme A and allows potentially harmful compounds to build up in the brain. This buildup leads to swelling and tissue damage, and allows iron to accumulate abnormally in certain parts of the brain. Researchers have not determined how these changes result in the specific features of pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration. Because pantothenate kinase 2 functions in mitochondria, the signs and symptoms of this condition may be related to impaired energy production.