Adult onset motor neuronopathy in the juvenile type of hexosaminidase A and B deficiency
Two sisters presented with progressive muscle cramps, as well as wasting and weakness of the legs with onset after age 20. They also showed intention tremor of the upper extremities and dysarthria starting during the first decade. The older patient also had fasciculations; the younger, hyperreflexia. Total plasma beta-hexosaminidase (Hex) activity with 4-methylumbelliferyl-acetyl-glucosamine as substrate was reduced to 1.4% and 2.7% of the control in the 2 patients, respectively. Hex A activity measured by 4-methylumbelliferyl-N-acetylglucosamine-6-O-sulphate as substrate was 9.9% and 12.8% of the mean control value in the 2 patients, respectively. Hex B activity was undetectable in both patients. Leukocyte total Hex activity was 7-8% of normal; residual Hex A activity in the 2 patients was 17.8% and 16.3% of normal controls, respectively. Fibroblastic residual Hex A activity in the 2 patients was 9.6% and 22% of normal mean value, respectively. Appendiceal ganglion cells contained membranous cytoplasmic bodies in the younger patient. Thin layer chromatography of the appendiceal extract from one patient (III/2) showed a marked increase of GM2 ganglioside, and some increase of GM3 ganglioside. Northern blots performed on fibroblast cell lines from both patients for the demonstration of alpha and beta locus messenger RNA showed no difference between patients and control. These patients have a rare form of adult-onset progressive motor neuron disease presumably due to abnormal beta subunits, causing severe deficiency of both Hex A and Hex B. The phenotypic expression of this disease is similar to motor neuron disease due to alpha locus mutations, which suggests that the Hex A deficiency, even though only a partial one, may be the important pathogenic factor.