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Pediatr Neurol. 1995 Jan;12(1):21-30.

Fatty acid oxidation abnormalities in childhood-onset spinal muscular atrophy: primary or secondary defect(s)?

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Division of Neurology, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


The purpose of this study was to further identify and quantify the fatty acid oxidation abnormalities in spinal muscular atrophy, correlate these with disease severity, and identify specific underlying defect(s). Fifteen children with spinal muscular atrophy (3 type I, 8 type II, 4 type III) were studied. Serum carnitine total/free ratios demonstrated a tendency toward an increased esterified fraction ranging 35-58% of total carnitine (normal: 25-30% of total) in younger children with types I and II. The remaining type II and III patients, older than 23 months of age at sampling, had normal esterified carnitine levels. Urinary organic acid analysis demonstrated mild to moderate medium-chain dicarboxylic aciduria in type I patients and normal, mild, or moderate increases in short-chain and medium-chain organic acids in type II patients. In the type III group, the organic acids were normal except for one patient with mild medium-chain dicarboxylic aciduria. Muscle intramitochondrial beta-oxidation was measured in 5 children (2 type I, 2 type II, and 1 type III) and a significant reduction in the activities of short-chain L-3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase, long-chain L-3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase, acetoacetyl-CoA thiolase, and 3-ketoacyl-CoA thiolase were found; however, normal crotonase activity was documented. Most strikingly, there was a marked increase (3- to 5-fold) in the activity ratios of crotonase to L-3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase and thiolase activities with both short- and long-chain substrates. The combined abnormalities suggest a defect in a mitochondrial multifunctional enzyme complex, distinct from the trifunctional enzyme. These abnormalities may be either primary or secondary and may respond to dietary measures to reduce the dependence on fatty acid oxidation.

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