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Am J Hum Genet. 1993 May;52(5):958-66.

Medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (MCAD) deficiency: diagnosis by acylcarnitine analysis in blood.

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Department of Pediatrics, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710.


Medium-chain acyl-coenzyme A dehydrogenase (MCAD) deficiency is a disorder of fatty acid catabolism, with autosomal recessive inheritance. The disease is characterized by episodic illness associated with potentially fatal hypoglycemia and has a relatively high frequency. A rapid and reliable method for the diagnosis of MCAD deficiency is highly desirable. Analysis of specific acylcarnitines was performed by isotope-dilution tandem mass spectrometry on plasma or whole blood samples from 62 patients with MCAD deficiency. Acylcarnitines were also analyzed in 42 unaffected relatives of patients with MCAD deficiency and in other groups of patients having elevated plasma C8 acylcarnitine, consisting of 32 receiving valproic acid, 9 receiving medium-chain triglyceride supplement, 4 having multiple acyl-coenzyme A dehydrogenase deficiency, and 8 others with various etiologies. Criteria for the unequivocal diagnosis of MCAD deficiency by acylcarnitine analysis are an elevated C8-acylcarnitine concentration (> 0.3 microM), a ratio of C8/C10 acylcarnitines of > 5, and lack of elevated species of chain length > C10. These criteria were not influenced by clinical state, carnitine treatment, or underlying genetic mutation, and no false-positive or false-negative results were obtained. The same criteria were also successfully applied to profiles from neonatal blood spots retrieved from the original Guthrie cards of eight patients. Diagnosis of MCAD deficiency can therefore be made reliably through the analysis of acylcarnitines in blood, including presymptomatic neonatal recognition. Tandem mass spectrometry is a convenient method for fast and accurate determination of all relevant acylcarnitine species.

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