Background: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a major cause of neurological disability and its pathogenesis remains elusive despite a multitude of studies. Although defects of the mitochondrial respiratory chain have been described in several ALS patients, their pathogenic significance is unclear. Objective: To review systematically the muscle biopsy specimens from patients with typical sporadic ALS to search for possible mitochondrial oxidative impairment. Design: Retrospective histochemical, biochemical, and molecular studies of muscle specimens. Setting: Tertiary care university. Subjects: Fifty patients with typical sporadic ALS (mean age, 55 years). Main Outcome Measure: Number of patients showing a clear muscle mitochondrial dysfunction assessed through histochemical and biochemical muscle analysis. Results: Histochemical datashowedcytochrome c oxidase (COX) - negative fibers in46%patients. Based on COX histochemical activity, patients fell into 4 groups: 27 had normal COX activity; and 8 had mild (2-4 COX-negative fibers of 100 fibers), 8 had moderate (5-10 COX-negative fibers of 100),and7hadsevere (>10COX-negative fibers of 100) COX deficiency. Spectrophotometric measurement of respiratory chain activities showed that 3 patients with severe histochemical COX deficiency also showed combined enzyme defects. In 1 patient, COX deficiency worsened in a second biopsy taken9monthsafter the first.Amongthe patients with severe COX deficiency, one had anewmutation in the SOD1 gene, another a mutation in theTARDBP gene, and a third patient with biochemically confirmed COX deficiency had multiple mitochondrial DNA deletions detectable by Southern blot analysis. Conclusions: Our data confirm that the histochemical finding of COX-negative fibers is common in skeletal muscle from patients with sporadic ALS. We did not find a correlation between severity of the oxidative defect and age of the patients or duration of the disease. However, the only patient who underwent a second muscle biopsy did show a correlation between severity of symptoms and worsening of the respiratory chain defect. In 7 patients, the oxidative defect was severe enough to support the hypothesis that mitochondrial dysfunction must play a role in the pathogenesis of the disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology