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Pediatr Res. 1983 Nov;17(11):877-84.

Medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency in children with non-ketotic hypoglycemia and low carnitine levels.


Three children in two families presented in early childhood with episodes of illness associated with fasting which resembled Reye's syndrome: coma, hypoglycemia, hyperammonemia, and fatty liver. One child died with cerebral edema during an episode. Clinical studies revealed an absence of ketosis on fasting (plasma beta-hydroxybutyrate less than 0.4 mmole/liter) despite elevated levels of free fatty acids (2.6-4.2 mmole/liter) which suggested that hepatic fatty acid oxidation was impaired. Urinary dicarboxylic acids were elevated during illness or fasting. Total carnitine levels were low in plasma (18-25 mumole/liter), liver (200-500 nmole/g), and muscle (500-800 nmole/g); however, treatment with L-carnitine failed to correct the defect in ketogenesis. Studies on ketone production from fatty acid substrates by liver tissue in vitro showed normal rates from short-chain fatty acids, but very low rates from all medium and long-chain fatty acid substrates. These results suggested that the defect was in the mid-portion of the intramitochondrial beta-oxidation pathway at the medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase step. A new assay for the electron transfer flavoprotein-linked acyl-CoA dehydrogenases was used to test this hypothesis. This assay follows the decrease in electron transfer flavoprotein fluorescence as it is reduced by acyl-CoA-acyl-CoA dehydrogenase complex. Results with octanoyl-CoA as substrate indicated that patients had less than 2.5% normal activity of medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase. The activities of short-chain and isovaleryl acyl-CoA dehydrogenases were normal; the activity of long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase was one-third normal. These results define a previously unrecognized inherited metabolic disorder of fatty acid oxidation due to deficiency of medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase.

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