Understanding CLN5

Understanding CLN5, a Subtype of Batten Disease

Batten disease is a group of rare neurodegenerative diseases, also known as neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCLs). Each NCL disease is classified by the gene that causes it. The name of each gene begins with CLN – ceroid lipofuscinosis, neuronal – followed by a unique number that indicates the subtype.

Changes in the normal function of these genes, due to pathogenic variants, lead to disruption of normal protein function. This disruption results in lysosomal dysfunction, and the accumulation of molecules in the cells throughout the body.

The symptoms, severity, onset, and progression across the subtypes vary. Both males and females may be affected. The subtypes of Batten disease can be found here.

The CLN5 subtype of Batten disease is caused by a variant in the CLN5 gene, which leads to disruption of normal CLN5 protein function. The exact function of this protein is unknown. Initial signs and symptoms of CLN5 most commonly develop in early childhood, although the precise timing may vary. The most common early signs include cognitive decline, clumsiness or challenges with movement. Another early sign is the loss of previously acquired motor (movement) skills. Seizures, muscle twitches, and jerks commonly develop between the ages of 6 and 13. The disease ultimately leads to a shortened lifespan.


  1. Batten Disease Fact Sheet. (2019, June 24). Retrieved July 31, 2019, from link.
  2. Batten Disease Support and Research Association CLN5 disease. (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2019, from link.

History of Batten Disease

Batten disease, a common name for a rare class of diseases called neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCLs), was first described in 1903 by British neurologist and pediatrician Frederick Batten.

Today, there are 13 known subtypes of Batten disease. Symptoms and disease management for each subtype of Batten disease vary, although several subtypes share similar features and symptoms. Batten disease originally referred specifically to the juvenile-onset type of NCL, but now has been used more generally to describe all types of NCLs. Batten disease affects an estimated 2-4 out of every 100,000 children in the United States.

History of CLN5 (Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis 5)
Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis 5, CLN5, was first reported in 1991. It is an inherited neurological disease that affects both motor and sensory nerves. To date, more than 85 known cases of CLN5 exist in scientific literature.

CLN5 affects children globally, across ethnicities and races, and was first diagnosed in the Finnish population.

Living Batten | Batten History: CLN5

CLN4 and CLN9 genes have still not been identified.


  1. CLN5 disease. (2019, July 16). Retrieved July 31, 2019, from link.
  2. CLN5 disease. (n.d.). Retrieved July 31, 2019, from link.
  3. Mole, S. E. (2017, May 29). The value of a comprehensive natural history in late infantile CLN5 disease. Retrieved July 31, 2019, from link.
  4. Batten Disease Fact Sheet. (2019, June 24). Retrieved July 31, 2019, from link.
  5. CLN5 disease. (2019, July 16). Retrieved July 31, 2019, from link.
  6. Frederick Eustace Batten. (n.d.). Retrieved July 31, 2019, from link.
  7. Batten Disease Support and Research Association. (2000). Batten Disease Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (Publication). Retrieved August 14, 2019, from link.
  8. CLN1 Disease, infantile onset and others. (n.d.). Retrieved August 14, 2019, from link.
  9. CLN10 disease, congenital, neonatal and late infantile. (n.d.). Retrieved August 14, 2019, from link.
  10. CLN2 Disease, Late Infantile. (n.d.). Retrieved August 14, 2019, from link.
  11. CLN8 Disease, EPMR and late infantile variant. (n.d.). Retrieved August 14, 2019, from link.
  12. McKusick, V. A. (1997, April 28). CEROID LIPOFUSCINOSIS, NEURONAL, 6; CLN6. Retrieved August 14, 2019, from link.
  13. Types of Batten Disease. (n.d.). Retrieved August 14, 2019, from link.

How CLN5 Disease Affects the Body

CLN5 disease affects children both cognitively and physically. Symptoms of the disease may include:
Living Batten | CLN5-7 Symptoms Illustration Version 1

Science Behind CLN5 Disease

Living Batten  | CLN5 Inheritance Illustration
The underlying cause of CLN5 disease is found in an individual’s genetic code. In humans, each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes for a total of 46: 23 from their mother and 23 from their father. The first 22 pairs of chromosomes are autosomes, and they look the same in both males and females. The 23rd pair are sex chromosomes, which are different between males and females. Females have two copies of the X chromosomes (XX) and males have one X and one Y chromosome (XY). A variant in a gene on one of the first 22 autosomes can lead to an autosomal disease.

Autosomal recessive is one of several ways that a disorder or disease is passed down through families. An autosomal recessive disorder occurs when a child inherits two copies of a mutated gene, one from the mother and one from the father. The biological parents, known as carriers, each carry only one copy of the mutated gene, and usually do not show symptoms of the disease.

CLN5 disease is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern, meaning both copies of the CLN5 gene variant (one from each parent, or carrier) must be present for the child to be diagnosed with CLN5 disease.

Healthy CLN5 Gene

A healthy CLN5 gene provides the body with instructions for building the CLN5 protein. Although the exact function of the protein is unknown, it is thought to play a role in lysosomal function. In lysosomes, waste is recycled or disposed of properly, resulting in normal cellular function.

Living Batten | CLN5 Healthy Illustration

CLN5 Variant

People with CLN5 disease have a variant on the CLN5 gene, located on chromosome 12. When there is a variant or mutation in the CLN5 gene, the body creates a non-functional CLN5 protein, resulting in lysosomal dysfunction. The lysosome, when unable to function properly, causes a toxic accumulation of material in cells throughout the body.

Living Batten | CLN5 Variant Illustration

Although the CLN5 protein is expressed throughout the body, nerve cells seem to be the most impacted, leading to the central nervous system-related signs and symptoms seen in patients who have CLN5.



  1. CLN5 gene. (2019, December 10) Retrieved December 17, 2019, from link.
  2. CEROID LIPOFUSCINOSIS, NEURONAL, 5; CLN5. (2016, March 15). Retrieved June 20, 2019, from link.
  3. CLN5 disease. (n.d.). Retrieved June 19, 2019, from link.
  4. CLN5 disease. (2019, June 11). Retrieved June 19, 2019, from link.
  5. CLN5 gene. (2016, November). Retrieved June 20, 2019, from link.
  6. Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis 5. (n.d.). Retrieved June 20, 2019, from link.

CLN5 is a subtype of Batten disease with late infantile onset, which means that the signs and symptoms of CLN5 begin to show during childhood years. Children living with CLN5 will often experience normal development, until they reach the ages between 4 and 7 years old, when the first signs and symptoms of the disease typically appear. After disease onset occurs, the symptoms will continue to progress.

Birth Through Age 7

Children with CLN5 typically experience normal development until they reach the ages between 4-7. Initial common signs and symptoms may include:

  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Initial delays with learning
  • Delays with motor function and movement
  • Loss of motor skills that were previously acquired (developmental regression)
Birth Through Age 7
Living Batten | Patient with the CLN5 form of Batten, a rare neurological disease

I didn’t notice any initial signs and symptoms because I was unsure of what I was looking for and he kept getting misdiagnosed.

- Wendy, mother of son living with CLN5

Read story

Adolescent years

As the disease continues to progress through adolescent years, other symptoms may become apparent:

  • Vision deterioration
  • Progressive dementia
  • Decline in language ability
  • Difficulty eating
  • Loss of motor function

Challenges with cognitive and motor skills may be perceived as behavioral issues such as hyperactivity, anxiety, and obsessive activities. The child’s description of vision loss associated with CLN5 may be interpreted as hallucinations by parents or caregivers.

Adolescent years

Childhood Years

Signs and symptoms start to become most noticeable during this stage. The signs that are most commonly seen during this time may include:

  • Continued learning disabilities, including struggles with concentration and memory issues
  • Vision problems or impairments
  • Recurrent seizures, or epilepsy
  • Uncontrollable muscle jerks (myoclonus)
  • Motor clumsiness
  • Difficulty coordinating movements
Childhood Years
Living Batten | CLN5 Batten disease signs and symptoms

“Austin’s perception would be off. Sometimes he would run into a doorframe, or put his foot down to search before stepping down a stair. When he was on an uneven service, he would have trouble walking. Walking up and down hills, or going from sidewalk to grass, got increasingly difficult for him.”

- Wendy, mother of son living with CLN5

Read story

Signs & Symptoms Reported by Caregivers

While the signs, symptoms, and age of onset of CLN5 may vary and can progress differently in each individual, there are common signs and symptoms that are consistent across people living with CLN5. The examples below come from parents of children with CLN5.

  • Progressive vision loss (reluctance to step off curbs, squinting to look at pictures, reads a book too close to face, sees things that aren’t there, especially at night)
  • Cognitive delay (isn’t meeting milestones, slow to respond verbally)
  • Seizures (appearing to nod off, looks like they are startled awake, twitches and tremors)
  • Clumsiness and issues with gross motor function or coordination of movement (lack of agility, reluctance to run, difficulty hopping on one foot, tripping, and falling)
  • Deterioration of fine motor skills (challenges with scissors, needing a fat crayon instead of a pencil, difficulty picking up small objects)
Batten Disease Glossary of Terms


    1. Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis 5 (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2019, from link.
    2. Batten Disease Fact Sheet. (2019, June 24). Retrieved July 31, 2019, from link.
    3. Batten Disease Support and Research Association CLN5 disease. (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2019, from link.
    4. Malhas, A. Study Provides More Insight into Early Signs, Progression of CLN5 Disease. (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2019, from link.
    5. CEROID LIPOFUSCINOSIS, NEURONAL, 5; CLN5. (2016, March 15). Retrieved June 20, 2019, from link.
    6. Simonati, A., Williams, R. E., Nardocci, N., Laine, M., Battini, R., Schulz, A., Garavaglia, B., Moro, F., Pezzini, F., & Santorelli, F.M. (2017). Phenotype and natural history of variant late infantile ceroid‐lipofuscinosis 5. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 59(8): 815-821. Retrieved December 17, 2019, from link.

Obtaining a definitive genetic diagnosis is an important first step in seeking appropriate care and treatment, learning about potential research or therapies that may become available, and preparing for the future. Patients and their families should consider discussing the implications of obtaining a diagnosis of CLN5 with their physician and a genetic counselor or other specialists who are familiar with the disease management of CLN5.

Living Batten | Genetic testing for CLN5 | Blood and Saliva Test

If you believe your child is showing signs or symptoms of CLN5, tests are available for a physician or other healthcare professional to order to confirm a diagnosis.

Many academic and commercial laboratories offer genetic blood testing. Testing for CLN5 may not be included in standard testing panels; however, upon request, a diagnostic genetic test including an expanded exome sequencing panel for CLN5 can confirm a diagnosis. Your physician can help you navigate the process or refer you to a geneticist.


Patient organizations also provide helpful information and resources for genetic testing. For additional information on genetic testing and to find possible sources for testing, you can refer to these Batten disease advocacy organizations.

A representative is available to help you:

A Clinician's Perspective on Diagnosis:

“CLN5 and CLN7 are two very rare forms of
Batten disease, both marked by regression of motor and language skills, as well as seizures, during childhood years. While signs and symptoms for both are similar to other types of Batten disease, these subtypes are not currently tested within a standard panel. If your child is experiencing motor and language regression, consider speaking to your healthcare provider about an expanded exome sequencing panel. With a positive diagnosis, children may be eligible to participate in research that could help the community better understand Batten disease.”

Living Batten | Elizabeth Kerry Kravis

Elizabeth Berry-Kravis, M.D., Ph.D.,
Pediatric Neurologist and Professor
Rush University Medical Center

While there is currently no cure for children living with CLN5, there are a number of specialists with expertise who can help families affected by CLN5 manage their disease and its symptoms.

Children living with CLN5 benefit from having a team of healthcare professionals and assistive devices to help manage the progressive impact of their disease. The daily needs of an individual with CLN5 can be supported by some or all the following healthcare providers. These needs may evolve as the child moves into adulthood or as the disease progresses.

Click on each circle below for more information about the role each healthcare provider may play to support the daily needs of an individual living with CLN5:

Living Batten | CLN5 and CLN7 Management Strategies

In addition to the care team that can help to manage the various symptoms associated with CLN5 disease, people caring for a child with CLN5 disease may also find support through social and educational plans. These plans support the family as symptoms progress.

Discover more resources


  1. Batten Disease Fact Sheet. (2019, May 14). Retrieved June 19, 2019, from link.
  2. CLN5 disease. (n.d.). Retrieved June 19, 2019, from link.
  3. CLN5 disease. (2019, June 11). Retrieved June 19, 2019, from link.