The congenital myasthenic syndromes (CMS) are a diverse group of genetic disorders caused by abnormal signal transmission at the motor endplate, a special synaptic contact between motor axons and each skeletal muscle fibre. Most CMS stem from molecular defects in the muscle nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, but they can also be caused by mutations in presynaptic proteins, mutations in proteins associated with the synaptic basal lamina, defects in endplate development and maintenance, or defects in protein glycosylation.
Congenital myasthenic syndromes (CMS) are characterized by fatigable weakness of skeletal muscle (e.g., ocular, bulbar, limb muscles) with onset at or shortly after birth or in early childhood; rarely, symptoms may not manifest until later in childhood. Cardiac and smooth muscle are usually not involved.
Major findings of the neonatal-onset subtype include: respiratory insufficiency with sudden apnea and cyanosis; feeding difficulties; poor suck and cry; choking spells; eyelid ptosis; and facial, bulbar, and generalized weakness. Arthrogryposis multiplex congenita may also be present. Stridor in infancy may be an important clue to CMS. Later childhood-onset subtypes show abnormal muscle fatigability with difficulty in activities such as running or climbing stairs; motor milestones may be delayed; fluctuating eyelid ptosis and fixed or fluctuating extraocular muscle weakness are common presentations.