A 28-month-old black male died with severe complications of mental and motor deterioration, seizures, and aspiration. Autopsy demonstrated moderate liver enlargment, normal spleen and kidneys, small testes, and a grossly normal brain. Further examination showed irregular macrogyrae with evidence of a storage or sclerotic process. Thin layer chromatography of the lipids in formalin-fixed tissue demonstrated elevated levels of ceramide trihexoside and possibly sulfatides in liver and a decrease in the ratio of galactosylceramide to sulfatide in brain. Examination of the gangliosides in formalin-fixed brain indicated a slight increase in the percentage of G(M1) ganglioside and a clear elevation in G(M2) and G(M3) gangliosides. Cultured skin fibroblasts had a normal activity for a large number of lysosomal enzymes including arylsulfatase A and galactocerebrosidase. When the cells were loaded with [14C]sulfatide only about 12% of the sulfatide was metabolized after 3 days. Extracts of the cells were subjected to SDS-PAGE and immunoblotting with antisphingolipid activator protein-1 (SAP-1) rabbit antiserum, and no cross-reacting material was detected confirming the diagnosis of metachromatic leukodystrophy caused by SAP-1 deficiency. This patient was clinically more severe than the other patients described previously with this deficiency. Further studies are underway to define the nature of the mutation in this patient.
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