Interpretive Handbook

Test 89015 :
Niemann-Pick Type C, Full Gene Analysis

Clinical Information Discusses physiology, pathophysiology, and general clinical aspects, as they relate to a laboratory test

Niemann-Pick type C (NPC) is an inherited disorder of cholesterol transport that results in an accumulation of unesterified cholesterol and lipids in the lysosomal/endosomal system and in various tissues. Although NPC belongs to a group of lysosomal disorders including Niemann-Pick types A and B, these diseases are metabolically and genetically distinct. Niemann-Pick types A and B are caused by mutations in the SMPD1 gene, which encodes the enzyme sphingomyelinase, whereas NPC is caused by mutations in the NPC1 or NPC2 genes.


The incidence of NPC is approximately 1:120,000 to 1:150,000 live births. Age of onset is variable and ranges from the perinatal period to adulthood. Clinical presentation is also highly variable. Infants may present with or without liver disease (hepatosplenomegaly) and respiratory failure. Those without liver and pulmonary disease may present with hypotonia and developmental delay. Most individuals are diagnosed during childhood with symptoms including ataxia, vertical supranuclear gaze palsy, dystonia, progressive speech deterioration, and seizures resulting in death by the second or third decade of life. Adult-onset NPC is associated with a slower progression and is characterized by neurologic and psychiatric problems.


NPC is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner, in which affected individuals carry 2 mutations in either the NPC1 or NPC2 gene. Most mutations are family specific, although there are 2 mutations in the NPC1 gene which are more common than others. The G992W mutation is common in the French Acadian population of Nova Scotia. The I1061T mutation is the most common mutation worldwide, and is seen in patients of Hispanic and Western European (United Kingdom and France) descent. Full gene sequencing and analysis for large deletions and duplications of the NPC1 and NPC2 genes detect less common disease-causing mutations. 


The recommended first-tier test to screen for NPC is a biochemical test measuring cholesterol esterification coupled with filipin staining on a fibroblast specimen, NIEM / Niemann-Pick Type C Detection, Fibroblasts. Molecular testing provides confirmation of a biochemical diagnosis or a basis for carrier testing of family members. Individuals with abnormal biochemical results are more likely to have 2 identifiable mutations by molecular testing.

Useful For Suggests clinical disorders or settings where the test may be helpful

Second-tier test for confirming a biochemical diagnosis of Niemann-Pick type C (NPC)


Carrier testing of individuals with a family history of NPC but an affected individual is not available for testing or disease-causing mutations have not been identified

Interpretation Provides information to assist in interpretation of the test results

An interpretive report will be provided.

Cautions Discusses conditions that may cause diagnostic confusion, including improper specimen collection and handling, inappropriate test selection, and interfering substances

A small percentage of individuals who are carriers or have a diagnosis of, Niemann-Pick type C (NPC) disease may have a mutation that is not identified by this method (eg, promoter mutations, deep intronic alterations). The absence of a mutation(s), therefore, does not eliminate the possibility of positive carrier status or the diagnosis of NPC. For carrier testing, it is important to first document the presence of NPC1 or NPC2 gene mutations in an affected family member.


In some cases, DNA alterations of undetermined significance may be identified.


Rare polymorphisms exist that could lead to false-negative or false-positive results. If results obtained do not match the clinical findings, additional testing should be considered.


A previous bone marrow transplant from an allogenic donor will interfere with testing. Call Mayo Medical Laboratories for instructions for testing patients who have received a bone marrow transplant.


Test results should be interpreted in the context of clinical findings, family history, and other laboratory data. Errors in our interpretation of results may occur if information given is inaccurate or incomplete.


In addition to disease-related probes, the multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification technique utilizes probes localized to other chromosomal regions as internal controls. In certain circumstances, these control probes may detect other diseases or conditions for which this test was not specifically intended. Results of the control probes are not normally reported. However, in cases where clinically relevant information is identified, the ordering physician will be informed of the result and provided with recommendations for any appropriate follow-up testing.

Reference Values Describes reference intervals and additional information for interpretation of test results. May include intervals based on age and sex when appropriate. Intervals are Mayo-derived, unless otherwise designated. If an interpretive report is provided, the reference value field will state this.

An interpretive report will be provided.

Clinical References Provides recommendations for further in-depth reading of a clinical nature

1. NP-C Guidelines Working Group, Wraith JE, Baumgartner MR, et al: Recommendations on the diagnosis and management of Niemann-Pick disease type C. Mol Genet Metab 2009 Sep-Oct;98(1-2):152-65

2. Park WD, O'Brien JF, Lundquist PA, et al: Identification of 58 novel mutations in Niemann-Pick disease type C: correlation with biochemical phenotype and importance of PTC1-like domains in NPC1. Hum Mutat 2003 Oct;22(4):313-325

3. Vanier MT: Niemann-Pick disease type C. Orphanet J Rare Dis 2010 Jun 3;5:16