Late-onset mitochondrial neuromyopathy: An age-related phenomenon?

A. Toscano, M. Santoro, G. Vita, P. Girlanda, S. Sinicropi, M. C. Fazio, A. Mazzeo, C. Rodolico, M. Aguennouz, S. Bartolone, L. Bet, G. P. Comi, C. Messina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Peripheral neuropathy has been described in a number of cases of mitochondrial diseases. In these patients the onset of neuropathy varies from childhood to adulthood, whereas late onset is quite rare. We report here three males, ranging from 71 to 75 years with onset of peripheral neuropathy between 64 and 74 years of age. They complain of ataxic gait, muscle aches, weakness and mild muscle atrophy, sensory impairment with predominant glove and stocking distribution, reduced or absent deep tendon reflexes. Neurophysiological examinations and sural nerve biopsy studies showed a sensorimotor neuropathy with axonal degeneration in two cases and demyelination in one. Peroneus brevis muscle biopsy revealed, apart from frank neurogenic changes, presence of ragged-red fibers and cytochrome c oxidase negative fibers. Electron microscopy confirmed an abnormally increased presence of subsarcolemmal and intermyofibrillar mitochondria in muscle samples. These morphological features suggested a mitochondrial disease that was confirmed by biochemical investigations on muscle homogenate showing that the mitochondrial respiratory chain (MRC) enzyme activities were all reduced when compared to citrate synthase activity. In addition the presence of a partially inactive cytochrome c oxidase protein by ELISA was demonstrated in two cases. According to a recent "mitochondrial theory of aging", we think that a progressive decline of MRC function has affected either skeletal muscle or peripheral nerves in our patients. Being energy-requiring processes, muscle metabolism as well as active axonal transport may become progressively defective with age resulting in a late-onset neuropathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)577-583
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of Gerontology and Geriatrics
Issue numberSUPPL.1
Publication statusPublished - 1996


  • Late onset mitochondrial disease
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Mitochondrial respiratory chain
  • Myopathy
  • Neuropathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Medicine(all)


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